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Lady Rangers will host basketball classic Jan. 1-2 in memory of legendary KC women’s basketball coach Evelyn Blalock

In the new year, Stephanie Williams’ dream to create a basketball tournament in honor of KC’s first women’s basketball coach will come true. The Evelyn Blalock Classic will kick off at 1 p.m. on Monday, Jan. 1, in Masters Gymnasium, thanks to the determination of Williams, KC’s head women’s basketball coach.

Teams from NJCAA Regions 5 and 14 will be in Kilgore Jan. 1-2, 2024, to give fans a family event to enjoy during the break. On Monday, Panola College will play Hill College (1 p.m.); Tyler Junior College will play McLennan College (3 p.m.); and KC will play host to Arkansas-Cossatot (5 p.m.). On Tuesday, Panola will play Arkansas-Cossatot (11 a.m.); TJC will play Hill (1 p.m.); and KC will wrap up the day with McLennan (3 p.m.).

Blalock, 72, died from cancer in 2011. However, her founding of KC’s women’s basketball program in 1979 paved the way for other junior colleges to field teams, while improving opportunities for the athletic community here, according to Williams. In 18 seasons of coaching the Lady Rangers, Blalock finished with 408-166 career record, and three national championships (1988, 1990 and 1993). She also made national tournament trips in 1986 (7th), 1987 (6th) and 1991 (4th). Her 1986-87 team was inducted into the Kilgore College Athletics Hall of Fame in 2022, and is considered to be the most successful women’s team to date, finishing with a season record of 25-7.

Blalock herself has received recognition by being inducted into the NJCAA Women’s Basketball Coaches Association Hall of Fame in 1999 and the Kilgore College Athletics Hall of Fame in 2002. She has also twice been named a finalist for the Women’s Basketball Hall of Fame in Knoxville, Tennessee. Her final season at KC was 1997-98 when her team finished 16-12.

“Evelyn Blalock created a strong program in our community,” Williams said. “She was a legend, a winner, fearless, broke barriers, and had a huge impact on the city of Kilgore.”

While planning the event, Williams said she enjoyed getting to learn more about Blalock and the impact she had on the college and the community. “She was feisty on the sidelines, and was the first JuCo women’s basketball coach to be invited to the White House.”

Williams hopes to expand the tournament in the future, adding high school teams and growing the basketball community as Blalock would have wanted.

“She deserves her flowers; she needs to be talked about more,” Williams said.

  • Article by Eleanor Geeslin, KC Communications and Public Relations intern

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