Rams prepare for Charles Henderson in state championship

Published 10:30 am Friday, March 3, 2023

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Perfection. History. It’s what the Valley is seeking as the Rams have one more game before finishing off the greatest season in school history.

After tearing apart the Scottsboro Wildcats, Valley will play Charles Henderson on Saturday at the BJCC in Birmingham.

This will be Valley’s first state championship appearance and Charles Henderson’s second.

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The Trojans are 24-5 this season. They last made the state championship in 1987 but lost to Hayes.

Current head coach, Tim Fayson, was on that team.

Fayson has led Charles Henderson to the championship in his second season.

The Trojans have won 15 straight games, including a win over 7A semifinalist Dothan.

Charles Henderson’s path to the championship started with a 66-47 win over Headland followed by a 67-41 win over Vigor in the regional semifinals.

The Trojans beat Eufaula 61-56 in the regional final then beat Ramsay 61-60 in the state semifinal.

Charles Henderson’s starters are led by senior Austin Cross, who is the son of Troy head coach Scott Cross.

Cross is averaging a team high 23.1 PPG, and this is his first year on the team.

The Rams will also have to find a way to defend Charles Henderson’s Tyler Carlton, who’s averaging a double-double with 10.8 points per game and 11.1 rebounds per game.

Troy Messengers’s Josh Boutwell has covered Charles Henderson all season long.

According Boutwell, the Trojans like to play fast and create issues for opponents on defense.

“They want to go fast paced,” Boutwell said.

“They have some of the better shooters that I’ve ever been around in high school basketball. Anywhere inside half court is Austin’s range. He’s a good defender.”

The one area the Trojans are weak in is size.

“There aren’t any true bigs,” Boutwell said.

“Zion Grady, a football player, he’s one of the bigger players, but he doesn’t get a lot of minutes. They want you to play their game. They force turnovers. Any time a guy is open, they’re going to take a shot. There’s going to be no hesitation. Any of the five guys will take threes. Jywon Boyd is probably one of the best athletes I’ve ever been around. He’s kind of the guy who does everything. He’s not the biggest guy, but he can rebound. He can shoot threes.”

Charles Henderson had five losses, but they also had to play without their football players for the start of the season.

“They had JV kids playing on the varsity team because the football team made such a deep run,” Boutwell said.

“Since they’ve gotten back, they only lost to Eufaula and Dothan. Charles Henderson prides themselves on taking charges. They’re really physical.”

Charles Henderson’s schedule was tougher than Valley’s, and the Trojans beat Dothan.

Dothan made the 7A semifinals.

Boutwell gave his prediction on the game.

“Charles Henderson played a pretty brutal schedule,” Boutwell said.

“I think Valley has the bigs. The Trojans have had trouble with that this year. I think it’ll come down to who hits shots. I want to see who can make those adjustments. There are so many different storylines with the school and how both teams are looking for their first state championship. It’s hard for me to call.”

If Valley has a good chance to win it’s because they have too many ways they can beat opponents.

Charles Henderson did have a tougher schedule, but Valley fans travel so well, and the Rams gel together better than a lot of teams they’ve faced.

The one area Valley struggled with in  the semifinal was offensive fouls.

Scottsboro did a good job of taking charges, but Valley was able to adjust.

Valley’s ability to adjust to any game plan and switch up defensive schemes makes them dangerous for any opponent.

The Rams also aren’t scared of their opponents.

Valley comes out firing in most games and is able to stand up in the face of adversity and overcome any runs the other team makes.

It’s very rare to see a team walk their way to the championship game like Valley did, but this will be Valley’s toughest test yet.

Valley has faced so much pressure this year with close games against Callaway, but the Rams never lost their cool.

After winning 32 games in a row, the Rams will do everything they can to keep the perfect season alive, especially with the possibility of this being the final season for Ram basketball.

Valley is an incredibly selfless team that distributes scoring evenly and doesn’t rely on one man.

Valley’s versatility and  drive should win them the game.