Valley looks to make history as first ever undefeated AHSAA 5A champion

Published 7:45 pm Friday, March 3, 2023

Valley will face Charles Henderson in the AHSAA 5A state championship on Saturday, and the Rams will have the chance to finish as the first ever undefeated state champs in AHSAA 5A history.

If the Rams win, they’ll be the 11th ever team in Alabama to finish the season undefeated.

The last team to finish undefeated was Autaugaville, who went 30-0 in 1A in 2021.

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Valley head coach Marshon Harper is ready to make history for his alma mater.

“It would mean the world to me to win a state title,” Harper said.

“It would be the first state title in Valley High School history. It would sum up my coaching career. I’ve been telling the kids that it’s no good to be remembered at 32-1. We have to get it done.”

This would be just one of the many milestones the Rams would complete this season.

Valley started the season perceived as a team on the outside of the upper echelon in 5A.

The Alabama Sports Writers Association didn’t even have the Rams receiving votes for the top 10 at after 10 games, and they had Valley ranked eighth in the final rankings.

That’s as high as the Rams climbed all year.

Valley has fought for their respect all season  long, and it’s fair to say the Rams have earned that respect by flattening opponents on their way to the state championship.

This would be the first Valley team to win a state championship, but it may also be the last season of Rams basketball due to ongoing consolidation efforts within the Chambers County School District.

Since the subregional round, the Rams have won each game by an average of 26.25 points.

Charles Henderson has won each game by an average of 12.75 points.

While people can say the Trojans had a tougher path to the playoffs, Valley hasn’t been forced to play a down-to-the-wire game.

If Valley does win, Harper feels like he can claim his team to be one of the best in AHSAA history.

“You can put yourselves in the history books,” Harper said.

“There have been a lot of great teams that have come through Valley High School, but you could be the best.”

Harper has prepared his team for their toughest matchup yet, and he knows the Trojans will try to be the more physical team.

“They’re physical,” Harper said.

“We have to box out. They rebound the ball well. They get up and down the court well. It’s going to be challenge. We have to play defense. They have some great outside shooters. Troy’s coach’s son is on the team. We have to be fine-tuned and pay attention to detail during the game.”

Harper knows his guys have to stay calm during the biggest moment in program history.

“Let’s go out and play like we’ve been doing for 32 games,” Harper said.

“We have to play ball. Let’s play like we’re playing Lanett or LaFayette. Let’s just have fun. We need one game, your best game. Let’s give it to them.”

Harper also knows his players are hungry for that state title, but the Trojans are also looking for their first.

“We’ve bought in all year,” Harper said.

“Charles Henderson is in our way. We’re trying to do it for the city of Valet and put ourselves in the history books. I think our team is up for the challenge.”

Harper feels like his team has advantages over the Trojans.

“I think we match up well,” Harper said.

“Our guard play matches up well. Our inside players match up well. Hopefully, our bigs can get going more. Charles Henderson rebounded and shot well against Ramsay. We just have to hold them to one shot, and hopefully, everything will come together.”

Harper wants his whole team to step up and contribute instead of relying on one player.

“Jamarious Martin is going to be big. He’s a senior,” Harper said.

“Denali Dooley is a senior. It’s his last shot. Cam [Dooley], Brandon [Thomas], Jameson [Harper] and Ian Crim all have to step up. We’re going to need everybody. I tell everyone on the bench if they contribute one or two points, it adds up. We need everybody to buy in.”

Harper feels like his team’s teamwork will give them an advantage.

“We’re capable of all five starters going into double figures,” Harper said.

“This is the biggest game of the year. They have to step up. There’s no turning back. We have to play quarter by quarter. Let’s go out and win this title.”