Rams win championship in what could be final game as a program

Published 9:32 pm Saturday, March 4, 2023

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With the threat of consolidation looming, the Valley Rams embraced this season as “The Last Ride,” and what a ride it was as Valley High School  will potentially end its storied history with a spot in the history books.

The Rams have been playing basketball since 1921 and have been part of the AHSAA since 1963.

The Rams won their first area championship in 1967 and reached their first semifinal in 1984 under legendary coach Richard Carter.

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Valley never reached the championship game before this season, and they’ll walk away as state champions for the first and possibly only time in Valley High history.

For head coach Marshon Harper, it’s been a long time coming.

He’s happy to have his team go out on top.

“I’ve been holding back tears,” Harper said.

“I had people call me, and I prayed about it. I let my tears go before the game. This is a great accomplishment. I’m super proud.”

Harper will also have his game mentioned with some of the greatest from the county.

“It means the world to me,” Harper said.

“I can be in a conversation with Richard Carter. I can be in a conversation with Arthur Dunn at Valley High. I’m the only one that won a state title at Valley High, so that’s special. I played at Valley High. I sweat Blue and Orange. I’ve been on the battlefield. I’ve been through the ups and the downs. To finish 33-0 is special.”

For the players, it’s a similar feeling.

“I was a senior anyway, so going out in the last game knowing that the school might not be coming back, you know it means a lot.”

For All-Tournament selection Brandon Thomas, it’s huge despite Thomas coming back next season.

“We’re going to be talking about this forever,” Thomas said.

“Don’t go 32-1. Go 33-0. We said we were going to get this championship.”

Tournament MVP Cam Dooley knows how much this means for his team.

“I feel like I had to go out there for my team,” Dooley said.

“We’ve been talking about this since June, so I feel like this is a big accomplishment for the team.”

For Martin, he’s been chasing a state title with some of his teammates since they were kids.

“When I was a fifth grader, I saw them playing,” Martin said.

“It was fast, and I wanted to play basketball. We took it one game at a time, and I love playing with my teammates.”

One of the most underrated aspects of the game was just how many Valley fans traveled to Birmingham, and Harper is proud of his community.

“I don’t want to tell my age, but I can see some people out there I coached,” Harper joked.

“It’s allowing people to support us. We have an unbelievable community. They come out and support us every day, and every game we have a sold out crowd. They believed in us. When the kids hear them cheering, they play hard. I’m proud to bring this back to the city.”

Harper feels like his team has finally earned their respect from the pundits around Alabama.

“We’re 33-0. A lot of teams can’t say that,” Harper said.

“We finished the mission. They still have to deal with Cam, Brandon, Jameson [Harper] and Ian [Crim-Davis] next year. I don’t even look at rankings. I just want to play ball. Let’s just grind and play hard. Let’s get the job done.”