By Dominic Scianna
Marshall boys head basketball coach Henry Cotton knows full well the legacy that the Commandos girls’ and boys’ basketball programs have accomplished down through the years in the Chicago Public League and the Illinois High School Association (IHSA) state playoffs.
This year, Cotton was trying to write his own story to the state finals, but he and his squad fell one game short as Scales Mound High School knocked Marshall out of the state tournament for the second year in a row by a score of 60-56 in the 2A Super-Sectional final on March 6.
“Our goal was to win and go downstate,” Cotton admitted. “These kids had the desire all season, and they come from different communities where they have to fight every day to get through whatever neighborhoods they come from. I’m very proud of them.”
The sectional championship on March 4 was a major accomplishment for Cotton, winning his second consecutive crown. He spoke candidly in his postgame comments about how the girls’ and boys’ basketball programs lean on each other for advice and counsel.
Take for example, his Commandos down 42-30 at the half in this year’s sectional championship at Elgin High School when an old friend, Hall of Famer and ex-Marshall girls basketball coach Dorothy Gaters, talked to him outside the locker room before the second half. The conversation helped turn the game around to spark his team to 71-62 victory over Chicago Hope Academy.
“It’s been a tradition that we all help each other out when we can,” Gaters noted. “We have had some great assistant coaches that have been on each other’s benches down through the years – and Henry was there for me when I was coaching. It has worked out well for us. And one of those years (2008) both the boys’ and girls’ teams won the IHSA state championship.”
Ja’Juan Cozark, Jalin Jackson, and Marquis Williams were the catalysts in the sectional championship as Cozark finished with 29 points, Jackson netted 11, and Williams tallied 9 points with a key steal and free throws late in the game to seal the win.
“The sectional win was one of the biggest comebacks we’ve ever had since I’ve been at Marshall,” Cozark said. “Coach (Cotton) told us we’re not letting these guys (Chicago Hope Academy) end our season. We came out and played Marshall defense and locked in, came together, and played hard to get the win.”
Overall, this season was another success for Marshall, and it may have been just what their star forward (Cozark) needed in order to continue his basketball career in college as recruits need look no further for a productive and competitive post player.
“A lot of people have missed out on Cozark,” Cotton acknowledged. “If anybody came to see him play this year (especially during these state playoffs) they’ll know that this kid is a steal.”