Valley celebrates their champions
Published 4:19 pm Tuesday, July 18, 2023
A party bus, a former Alabama player and shiny jewelry, is the president in town? No, just a community coming together to celebrate their Valley Rams AHSAA 5A State Champion basketball team and its cheerleaders.
Video courtesy of Blissful Moments
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A ceremony befitting champions was held to honor the team on Saturday after completing one of the best seasons in the history of high school basketball in Alabama.
The community gathered at the community center in Valley to celebrate the champs. The team that finished undefeated and won 33 games finally got the opportunity to wear their rings.
The team showed up in style. Valley showed up at the community center in a party bus. Each player wore custom orange suits with their name and number on the back. The coaches wore blue suits, and the cheerleaders wore white dresses.
Tamalita Dunn Autry served as the MC for the celebration. Autry kicked the night off with a speech to get the crowd going. Then, Johvoski ‘JT’ Dickey announced the entry of the cheerleaders, players and coaches.
Jamarious Martin took the stage to thank the parents and community for their support during the season.
Former Alabama basketball player and Valley’s Mr. Basketball winner Bryant Lancaster served as the guest speaker for the celebration. Lancaster’s speech revolved around his faith and basketball.
After the festivities, the team received their individual awards. Cam Dooley received an award for joining the 1,000-point club and was awarded the MVP. Jay Harper and Ian Crim-Davis received the defensive awards. Jamarious Martin and Brandon Thomas received the offensive awards. Jay Harper was awarded the Scholar-Athlete Award. Denali Dooley and Quen Story were recognized as the two captains.
After all these awards were presented, VHS Athletic Director and head football coach Adam Hunter called each player on stage, where they opened the box that held the championship rings in unison. A large V with blue gemstones outlined in orange highlighted the front of the ring. The player’s name and number is embossed on one side of the ring. The other side says, ‘Undefeated 2023,’ with the state of Alabama with a number one inside and the VHS and Charles Henderson logos above the final score of the championship game, with the 33-0 final record underneath. The motto ‘We > Me’ is engraved on the bottom of the ring.
Immediately following the boys presentation, Hunter called each cheerleader on stage, where they opened a box containing a necklace that resembled the front of the boys’ rings.
This championship is a long time coming for Valley, and the city celebrated accordingly. The support of the community on Saturday as well as during the season, was something that Head Coach Marshon Harper did not take for granted.
“It means so much to me,” Harper said. “Look at all the people that came out today to support us, and this was every game. We had a packed house every night, sold out tickets every night. People were calling and trying to get tickets to get in the game. The kids, they performed. They performed for the crowd. I’m just so happy for the kids, happy for the community, and hey, Go Rams.”
Winning a championship with Valley has been the quest for Harper for most of his life. Harper graduated from Valley High School in 1992 and has been coaching with Valley for over two decades.
“It took me 24 years of coaching to get this ring and numerous times in high school playing at the same school,” Harper said. “This state title, it means the world to me and the kids they talked about we’re gonna repeat.”
Winning a state championship in consecutive seasons is rare in any sport. With so many key pieces returning, Valley is beginning to work towards making history again.
“It’s going to be very special,” Harper said. “We have a new team this year. If they can put together what we’ve done the previous years, they’re going to talk about that forever.”
Harper’s son, Jay Harper, played a key role in helping Valley win the state championship. Winning the championship with his son has made the experience that much better.
“I’m just so proud of him,” Harper said. “So proud of him and his friends, and I love him to death.”
Few teams in any sport have won a state championship at Valley High School. This Valley basketball team will be remembered as one of the best to do it.
“Me and my wife was talking about it the other day,” Harper said. “You know what these kids can say? They were the best team that have ever played at Valley High School, ever. This is the best team that has ever played at Valley High School.”