BACK ON TOP: Dorothy Gaters hugs a player after her team's state title win in Normal on Feb. 24. | Provided by IHSA

The Marshall High School woman’s varsity basketball program defeated Harlan High School in Chicago 53 to 44 in the Illinois High School Association state championship game in Normal on Feb. 24 to take home the title. 

The Commandos’ path to another title wasn’t easy. In the semifinal game, they erased an early 15-point deficit on their way to beating Teutopolis High School in the semifinals in a matchup between the “top two winningest girls basketball teams in Illinois history,” according to the Effingham Daily News. 

As a head coach at Marshall, Gaters has made more than 20 state tournament appearances. This year’s title is her ninth. She’s also earned seven statewide coach of the year awards and won a gold medal at the 1986 U.S. Olympic Festival.

According to a roundup of the title game by the Pantagraph, the ninth-ranked Commandos “erased a 10-point deficit with a 21-2 run over the final seven minutes.”

Marshall’s Dyanla Rainey scored 20 points for her team, which finished with a 22-7 record. 

“The Commandos tied the game at 44-all on a 3-pointer by Niyah Zamundio with 3:34 to play and took the lead on two free throws by Roquesha Smims at 3:02.

“Daijahnay Winston scored 21 points and Kimeira Burks added 15 for Harlan (26-7), while Aquila Anderson grabbed 10 rebounds. Anderson’s jumper with 7:10 remaining had the Falcons up 42-32.”

Last month, Gaters, the winningest basketball coach in IHSA history, was allowed to share some of her abundant wisdom in a short promotional video Nike released last week in time for the Martin Luther King, Jr. national holiday.

“I think if you consider a person equal to you, then you will treat them with a certain amount of respect and dignity,” she said.