Rams dominate Central of Clay County to advance to second state semifinal in school history

Published 6:12 pm Thursday, February 23, 2023

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BIRMINGHAM – The Valley Rams crushed Central of Clay County 61-36 on Thursday to win the 5A central regional championship and advance to the state semifinals for only the second time in school history.

Cam Dooley and Jamarious Martin were named to the All-Tournament team, and Denali Dooley was named tournament MVP after scoring 17 points against the Vols.

Denali praised the atmosphere for his performance.

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“The intensity and the game level was good,” Dooley said.

“My teammates got me going, so I got it all for them.”

Valley head coach Marshon Harper is proud of his team’s accomplishment so far, but his team is hungry for more.

“The mission is to win a title,” Harper said.

“We have all the pieces we need. The chemistry is there. I’m proud of my guys. They come out and work hard every game. We’re going to celebrate tonight, and then we’re going to go and watch film and prepare for the next game.”

The first quarter was a hot start for the Rams as Valley jumped to a quick 11-2 lead with baskets from Cam Dooley, Jamarious Martin, and Denali Dooley.

After a slew of turnovers and fouls, the Rams gained momentum toward the end of the first with a Denali Dooley three.

Dooley led the Rams in first quarter scoring with seven points.

Valley took a 17-12 lead at the end of the first quarter, but Central’s Troy Buchanan hit a buzzer beater three to close the lead.

The second quarter was all Valley as the Rams got to the free throw line, clamped down on defense and dunked on the Vols.

Cam Dooley scored four straight points capped off with a dunk to bring the Valley fans to life.

The Rams closed off a 10-0 run with a Jay Harper dunk.

Central stopped the bleeding temporarily with three straight points from Keisen Lindsey, but the Rams locked back down on defense in the final two minutes and went into halftime with a commanding 28-15 lead.

Harper explained how the Rams dominated in the second quarter.

“It’s about last year,” Harper said.

“When we played Park Crossing, we were down one at the half. We came in the third quarter and were down by 20. I’ve been preaching that every single day that we have to finish.”

Cam Dooley led the Rams in the first half scoring with nine points.

Valley continued to dominate on defense and get down the court with speed in the third quarter.

The Rams never looked shaken as Denali Dooley scored 10 points in the third quarter alone.

Valley asserted their dominance in the paint as the Vols only scored eight points in the quarter, and the Rams held Central to zero of six on three point shots.

The Rams took a 46-23 lead at the end of the third quarter, and Valley demoralized the Vols in the fourth quarter as the Rams opened with dunks from Cam Dooley and Brandon Thomas.

Valley shot 75% from the field in the final eight minutes and celebrated their massive win.

Harper feels like his team has finally earned their respect around the state.

“People say we don’t play anybody,” Harper said.

“We play who’s on our schedule. We played the same teams last year and lost to them. It’s hard to go 31-0. We beat our rival Lanett by 60. They have never heard of that. These kids bought in and deserve their credit.”

Harper also knows what impact the title run has on the community.

“We’re trying to do something that hasn’t been done before,” Harper said.

“They’re talking about combining the schools. We want to make history. We want to be the first team to win a state title. It’s been unbelievable. Every home game is sold out. This is a special moment for the kids. Let’s seize the moment.”

Jamarious Martin is also looking to make history in his senior year.

“I’ve been wanting to play on a stage this big since I got to high school, and now I finally am,” Martin said.

The Rams will now look forward to Scottsboro in the state semifinal on Wednesday.

“It’s win or go home,” Harper said.

“We have to come out and play hard. We believe. This is my 24th year. I’m trying to go out on top. I’m not going to be Tom Brady. If I win, I want to go out on top. People want us to lose. We’re using it as motivation.”