Marshon Harper played sports at Valley High. He’s coached football and basketball at the school. In his final game at the school, Harper can now call himself a state champion. Better yet, he can call himself an unbeaten state champion.
Harper’s Valley High team pulled off the feat on Saturday with a 54-50 victory over Charles Henderson in the AHSAA Class 5A boys basketball state championship game in Legacy Arena at the BJCC. That was the 33rd win in 33 games for Valley, marking the first time in Class 5A history that a boys basketball team finished the season unbeaten.
“It’s very hard,” Harper said of finishing unbeaten. “Every game, you’ve got a target on your back. Every single one, somebody wants to say they’re the one who beat you. We had some close games but testament to the players. I want to tip my hat to the coaching staff also. They’ve done an unbelievable job. Players, they just bought in. This is something special. This is something that’s never been done before in the history of Valley High School. They bought in. I’m proud of them.”
It's also the final boys basketball game in the history of the school, at least how they know it. Lafayette High will consolidate with Valley High next fall. Students will attend school at a newly-built consolidated school in Chambers County at some point.
“It means the world to me,” Harper said of ending with a state championship. “I can be in the conversation with Richard Carter. I can be in the conversation with Arthur Dunn at Valley High School. I can be in the conversation as the only one who won a state championship (at Valley). I played at Valley High. I sweat blue and orange. I’ve been on that battlefield, been through the wars, been through the ups and downs. To win it like this, being 33-0, it’s special.”
Harper said he looked up in the stands during the game and saw not only former students and players but kids of former students and players. He’s been around the school a long time. He understands what this means for the town of Centre and the Valley High community.
“We’ve just got unbelievable support of people that come out to watch us every game,” Harper said. “Every game, we’ve got a sold-out crowd, every single game. They just came out and supported us. When the kids come out and cheer for them, it just makes them play hard. I’m just proud of them, proud of the community, proud to bring this back to the city.”
As far as Class 5A basketball is concerned, Valley was a bit of an afterthought when the season began. Harper said that never bothered him. He doesn’t pay attention to rankings or buzz outside the program. As the season wore on, though, attention grew as they kept winning.
“I think we earned that respect,” Harper said.
The final chapter wasn’t easy. Charles Henderson was making its second historic run during the school year. In the fall, the Trojans played in the Class 5A football championship game, losing to Ramsay. On Saturday, they rode the play of Jayden Spearman and Jywon Boyd to push Valley from the outset. Boyd had a team-high 14 points and three of the team’s 10 3-pointers.
But this day and this season were about Valley finding a way to win. Cam’Ron Dooley, who fought firsthalf foul trouble, had all of his 19 points after halftime. Ian Crim-Davis had 13 points. Point guard Jamarious Martin had 10 points, three assists and three steals. Brandon Thomas had just six points but he impacted the game in so many ways. Thomas had 12 rebounds, four assists, four blocked shots and four steals.
“We’re going to be talkling about his forever,” Thomas said.
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