Like a second home: Valley dominates in Birmingham

Published 2:12 pm Friday, February 16, 2024

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The Valley Rams are once again one of the last eight teams remaining in 5A as they downed Sylacauga 93-65 in the 5A Central Regional at Bill Harris Arena on Friday.

“It’s special,” Valley coach Marshon Harper said. “We’ve been talking about trying to go back-to-back. We need three wins. That’s all we talk about. Now, we’ve got to go 3-0. This is these guys’ last time, and I told them if they want to leave a mark on Valley High School, something that has never been done in the history of Valley High School. They were the best team in history last year, think about if we do it again.” 

The second half was where Valley took complete control of the game. Coming into the third period, the Rams held just a seven-point lead. Valley then started the period with a 13-0 run that lasted two minutes. 

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By the end of the third period, the Rams held a 66-45 lead. In total, Valley outscored the Aggies 56-36 in the second half to close out the game. 

“Most of the time when we come out in the third quarter, that’s what we do,” Harper said. “We go on a run. You’ve got to have the game close at halftime or in the third quarter, or you won’t be able to withstand our run. That’s what we do. We try to jump on them in the third quarter.” 

The Aggies scored the first bucket of the ball game on a layup, but Valley followed it up with a 14-0 run. The Rams held a 20-8 lead heading into the second period. 

The second period was Sylacauga’s best of the game as the Aggies outscored Valley 21-17. Revis Bardwell led Sylacauga with 23 points. 

Cam Dooley was once again the leader for the Rams on Friday. Dooley finished with 29 points, 12 rebounds, three assists and two steals.

Things came easily for Dooley in the second period as he put on his own version of a dunk contest. Dooley added an exclamation point dunk at the end of the third period that sent the crowd and team into a frenzy. 

“I really just wanted to get a bucket,” Dooley said. “At that moment, there wasn’t anybody in front. He was behind me so I just felt like I had to dunk it.” 

Jayden Thomas followed Dooley with 17 points. Thomas dominated in the second half and connected on five shots from behind the arc in the game. 

“Jayden Thomas has come a long way,” Harper said. “I think he’s the X-factor. I know we talk about these two (Dooley and Brandon Thomas) and Jameson [Harper], but I think Jayden Thomas is the X-factor. He gives you double-digits, and he just shoots the fool out of the ball.” 

Brandon Thomas had another big game for the Rams as he finished with 14 points. Thomas’ impact was felt the most on the defensive as he added four blocks and three steals. 

“Like coach says, defense first,” Thomas said. “Defense is going to create offense. That’s why we won last year. Just have to keep on playing defense.” 

Ian Crim-Davis and Jay Harper rounded out the scoring for Valley’s starting lineup. Crim-Davis finished with 10 points while Harper added eight points. 

The game on Friday was at 11:30 ET at Bill Harris Arena in Birmingham, but you could have been fooled to think the game took place at Valley’s home arena. The Valley faithful showed up in droves and brought a different atmosphere to the matchup. 

“It means the world to us,” Harper said. “You should see them in that gym at home and on the road. We have more fans than anybody we play. Unbelievable crowd. They’re supporting us.” 

The win improves Valley’s overall record to 21-1. Valley will face off in the Central Regional final on Feb. 21 against the winner of Clay Central and Demopolis’ matchup.