Exactly three months to the day of the controversial ending in the Class 3A state championship football game, Cedar Grove and Sandy Creek will meet Friday in the Class 3A boys basketball title game in Macon.
Top-ranked Sandy Creek heads into the title game on the heels of an 18-point victory over two-time state champion Cross Creek in the semifinals. No. 7 Cedar Grove looks for the program’s first basketball state title since McDonald’s All-American Dion Glover led the Saints to the 1997 Class 2A title.
Here’s a quick look at both teams:
Sandy Creek Patriots (25-6)
Ranked at the top the class the entire season, Sandy Creek is trying for the program’s first championship after beating two-time defending-champion Cross Creek 62-44 in the semifinals.
The Patriots’ floor leader is 6-foot-8 junior forward Micah Smith.
“Our depth is fueled by our love for each other,” Smith said after the semifinal victory. “We are all blood. That’s what makes this work, the love we got.”
Smith gave insight into the team’s outlook and game plan after losing in the second round last season to state runner-up Windsor Forest 47-37.
“We just had to come in every game we walked into like we were playing Cross Creek,” Smith said. “We could not take anything lightly through the whole season, and we were playing games and practicing like it was a final four game all season.”
Smith scored 16 points to lead a trio of Patriots players in double-figures in the semis. Junior P.J. Green finished with 13 points, and senior Vic Newsome scored 10.
Sandy Creek has beaten Ringgold 100-57, Wesleyan 68-22, No. 2 Johnson-Savannah 56-50 and Cross Creek. Sandy Creek has faced Cedar Grove three times this season and won 91-56, 71-48 and 76-52.
“When we got to the semifinals, it was nothing new,” Smith said. “We go hard all the time.”
Cedar Grove Saints (20-9)
Cedar Grove will have to play a next-to-perfect game to beat top-ranked Sandy Creek, and it still might not be enough.
But after the team’s 61-46 victory against Douglass in the semifinals, Cedar Grove is savoring the program’s first championship appearance since it won the Class 2A title in 1997.
Tempo and rhythm fuel Cedar Grove, but in the semifinals, it took some settling down for the Saints to take control.
“Douglass is a great shooting team, and we knew we just had to shut that down and execute on defense,” sophomore E.J. Colson said. “My guys were talking and once we got settled down, we felt good.”
A halftime talk from coach Kendrick Callier provided insight into the Saints’ game plan in any close contest.
“We went into halftime, and I told our guys to settle down,” Callier said. “We already knew their plans. They are a hard-playing team, and I told them to take care of the ball, sit back and play disciplined defense and let them give it to you.”
Colson, the quarterback of the Saints’ state runnerup football team, is a 6-foot point guard who scored 13 points against Douglass. Other offensive threats are 5-9 senior guard Jaylen Adside, 6-6 senior power forward Darius Reynolds and 6-5 freshman shooting guard Emmanuel Green.
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