Rams finish perfect season with win over Charles Henderson in AHSAA 5A state championship
Published 3:57 pm Saturday, March 4, 2023
BIRMINGHAM — The Valley Rams are AHSAA 5A State Champions.
Rolls off the tongue right?
For the first time ever, the Rams won the 5A state championship with a 54-50 win over Charles Henderson in Birmingham on Saturday.
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Valley will bring home the Blue Map Trophy and will leave their mark as the final season of Rams basketball may end with a bang, pending consolidation efforts for the Chambers County School District.
Valley had control the entire fourth quarter, but the game wasn’t truly decided until a free throw by Ian-Crim Davis that put the Rams up four with four seconds left.
Valley head coach Marshon Harper has waited 24 years for this moment, and the emotions are running wild.
“I want to thanks the fans for coming out and supporting us, the staff and everything,” Harper said. “Go Rams!”
Harper described the moment the buzzer sounded.
“It’s a lot of stuff lifted off my shoulder,” Harper said.
“I’ve been trying to do this for 24 years. I’ve had a lot of opportunities to go to other places, but I wanted to win it for my hometown. I wanted to stay. I remember these kids being fourth graders with my son and saying, ‘Dad, we’re going to win a state title.’ They proved it.”
The first quarter opened with some nerves from each team, but Charles Henderson’s Jywon Boyd opened with a layup a minute and a half into the game.
Jamarious Martin drew a foul on the other end and sank both to tie the game at two early on.
Trojan Jayden Spearman came back and got his own layup to give Charles Henderson the lead.
After Cam Dooley committed an offensive foul, the Rams locked down and forced a turnover.
Charles Henderson forced a turnover, and Tyler Carlton hit a layup to give the Trojans a 6-2 lead with four and a half minutes left in the first.
After an official timeout, Valley responded with a bucket from Ian Crim-Davis to cut the lead to two.
After back-to-back jumpballs from the ball getting stuck on the rim, Valley’s Martin sunk a three to give the Rams a 7-6 lead with 30 seconds left in the first.
Denali Dooley tried one more shot at the buzer but missed, and Valley took a 7-6 lead at the end of the first.
The Rams shot 13% in the first while the Trojans shot 30%.
The Rams opened the second quarter with a Martin steal and basket to take a 9-6 lead.
Charles Henderson’s Boyd responded with two consecutive threes to give the Trojans a 12-9 lead with five minutes left.
The Rams responded with a Crim-Davis three to tie the game back at 12.
Brandon Thomas used his size and dunked on the Trojans.
Valley got a steal, and Crim-Davis answered with a layup.
Valley forced another turnover and drew a goaltending on a Crim-Davis layup attempt to take an 18-12 lead with 3:07 left in the first half.
Charles Henderson’s Bray Jones hit a three to cut the lead to three, and the Trojans immediately responded with an Austin Cross jumper.
The Trojans took the lead back with a Carlton three to make it a 20-18 game with a minute and a half left.
With three seconds left in the half, the Trojans turned it over.
Martin attempted a shot at the buzzer, but it bounced out to give Charles Henderson a 20-18 lead at halftime — a rare deficit for the Rams at the intermission.
The second half opened with a pair of Cam Dooley free throws and a Dooley putback to give the Rams a 22-20 lead with under six minutes left in the third.
Charles Henderson responded with a three from Mario Davenport to retake a 23-22 lead with five minutes left in the quarter.
Charles Henderson got another three from Spearman, and the Rams responded with a Thomas layup.
The Trojans hit another three to extend the lead to five — their biggest lead of the game. Cam Dooley hit his own three to cut the lead to two.
For the next basket, Cam Dooley used his body to bully his way into the paint, make the layup, draw the foul and hit the and-one to give Valley a 30-29 lead with three minutes left in the third.
Cam Dooley drew a foul and hit both of his free throws to give the Rams a three-point lead with a minute left in the quarter.
Brandon Thomas hit a buzzer beater to give the Rams a 34-29 lead heading into the fourth.
Cam Dooley opened the fourth with a drawn foul and hit both free throws to give the Rams a 36-29 lead.
Cam Dooley slammed it down on the Trojans, but Charles Henderson answered with a basket from Spearman to cut the lead to seven.
Crim-Davis heated up and hit his own jumper to extend the lead back to nine with six minutes left.
Cam Dooley used his physicality to drive in the paint and get a layup to extend Valley’s lead to 11.
Charles Henderson answered with a three from Spearman, but Boyd for the Trojans walked off with an injury with 3:50 left.
Spearman got the Trojans going with a layup, and Boyd came back into the game.
Cross hit a three to cut the Valley lead to three with two minutes left, but Martin hit a layup to bring the lead back to five.
Thomas got his fourth foul with 1:26 left, and Boyd and hit one of his free throws to cut the lead back to four.
Charles Henderson fouled, and Crim-Davis hit both free throws to give Valley a 46-40 lead with 1:19 left in the game.
Cam Dooley got a steal and a basket to give Valley an eight point lead with a minute left.
Brandon Thomas fouled out with 53 seconds left, and Cross hit all three of his free throws to cut Valley’s lead to five.
Denali Dooley got fouled, and Dooley hit both to give the Rams a seven point lead with 40 seconds left.
Cam Dooley went to the charity stripe and hit one of his free throws to give the Rams a 51-45 lead with 33 seconds left.
The Trojans had baskets from Boyd and Cross to cut the Valley lead to 53-50 with four seconds left, but Charles Henderson had to foul to send Crim-Davis to the line for a one-and-one.
Crim-Davis missed the first shot but sank the second to all but seal the win.
Valley became only the 11th team in AHSAA history to finish undefeated, and they’re the first ever 5A team to accomplish that feat.
Harper explained how difficult it was to stay perfect all season long.
“Every game, you have a target on your back,” Harper said.
“We had some close games, but it’s a testament to the players. I want to give my hats off to the coaching staff. The players bought in. We want to be champions. Let’s do something special. They bought in from June 1.”
There’s no doubt that the 2023 Rams will go down as one of the greatest basketball teams in Chambers County history.