When you’ve beaten powers from higher classifications like Milton, Buford and St. Pius and came within a point of knocking off national-ranked Grayson, the notion of playing Cinderella for a state championship doesn’t seem that daunting.

It certainly wasn’t an issue for Sandy Creek.

The No. 1-ranked Patriots rolled to a 74-49 win on Friday over unranked Johnson-Savannah to successfully defend their Class 3A championship at the Macon Coliseum.

“It was a much different state championship because we were supposed to dominate. We were supposed to win,” said Sandy Creek coach Jon-Michael Nickerson. “It’s much tougher mentality-wise to deliver under that type of pressure but this is the best team I’ve ever coached. They dominated the entire classification, and they definitely made a statement.”

It was Sandy Creek’s closest state tournament game. The Patriots entered the final having beaten its previous four state playoff opponents by an average of 47.5 points.

“We dominated every single game,” Nickerson said. “We knew it from the summertime that we were one of the best three or four teams in the entire state, regardless of class. We could see it and they delivered.”

Sandy Creek (27-3) was led by Region 4 Player of the Year Micah Smith, a 6-foot-7 senior who has signed with mid-major power James Madison. The long-limbed athletic Smith finished with 15 points and 13 rebounds.

“We’re not an average high school and (Nickerson) is not an average high school coach,” Smith said. “He’s a college coach and he pushes us like a college team. (Johnson) is a solid team and we had to get ready for them, so our preparatioin was on point.”

The Patriots showed their balance with five players in double figures. Joining Smith were Jacobi Robinson with 18, Jared White and P.J. Green with 12 apiece, and Amari Brown with 11 points and seven rebounds.

Johnson (20-12) was led by Region 3 Player of the year Joshua Quarterman with 20 points and five rebounds and Favion Kirkwood with 16 points.

Johnson entered the tournament as the No. 2 seed from Region 3 after losing in the region final to upstart Savannah Country Day. Since the state playoffs began the Atomsmashers began to live up to its age-old reputation of excellence and beat No. 5 Cross Creek, No. 7 Hebron Christian and No. 2 Dougherty to reach the title game.

But Sandy Creek was in no mood to play around. After Johnson tied the game at 11-11 on Comari Jones’ three-point play at 3:13 in the first, the Patriots scored the next 11 points. And after surrendering a rogue basket, Sandy Creek went on a 16-2 run that essentially put the game away. Sandy Creek led 42-22 at halftime.

“I completely expected that,” Nickerson said. “When you’re playing Sandy Creek you’ve got to throw some Mike Tyson uppercuts, heavy haymakers early. If you don’t want to come out playing hard, you’re going got to get blown out from the jump. They came out with that attitude, and we knew we jut had to weather the storm.”

Sandy Creek outrebounded Johnson 44-25, scored 26 points in the paint and had 18 second-chance points. Johnson shot only 29.4% from the floor and made only 1 of 13 shots in the third quarter.

Nickerson pointed out that his team was built from within, not by a stream of transfers.

“All our kids are homegrown,” Nickerson said. “When the kids are coming from the middle schools, from the elementary schools, it’s a true program and it means more. People have no idea how hard we work.”

Click here to see the official box score.