The Kilgore College Rangers will start the 2021-2022 season exactly how they ended the previous campaign.

At the top of the heap in the East Zone.

Kilgore, coming off an 18-6 season a year ago that saw them win the Region XIV Conference Tournament and advance to the NJCAA National Tournament, earned eight of 10 first-place votes by conference coaches on Wednesday at the 23rd annual Region XIV Conference Basketball Media Day.

The KC women will begin the season ranked sixth by the league coaches.

MenKilgore earned 72 total points and is followed in the East Zone poll by Navarro (61) Trinity Valley (50), Tyler (47), Panola (35), Paris (22) and Bossier Parish (21).

Navarro earned one first-place vote, and Trinity Valley picked up two votes for the top spot.

The Rangers, under veteran head coach Brian Hoberecht, won six in a row to close out the regular season in the spring and then defeated Blinn (86-75), Navarro (77-62) and Trinity Valley (68-67) at the Region XIV Conference Tournament in Jacksonville.

KC earned the program’s sixth trip to the NJCAA National Tournament — and first since 2013 — but fell to host team Hutchinson, Kansas in the opening round (95-86).

The win over TVCC was the 400th of Hoberecht’s career. He will head into this season with a 400-242 overall record, including a 244-147 record in 13 seasons at Kilgore.

Kilgore returns five player’s from last year’s squad in 6-2 guard Dantwan Grimes, 6-8 forward Da’Sean Nelson, 6-5 guard Malik Grant, 6-7 guard/forward Duane Posey and 6-8 guard Paul Otieno. They’ll be joined on the roster by 6-3 guard Tobias Roland, 6-1 guard Isaac Hoberecht, 6-0 guard DaVeon Thomas, 6-3 guard Keshawn Williams, 6-8 forward/post Obi Ezekewesli, 7-1 post Mamadou Gueye and 6-4 guard Mason Taylor.

KC opens the season at home on Nov. 2 against the Texas Gladiators. The Region XIV Conference opener is set for Nov. 19 at home against Angelina College.

In the South Zone poll, Lee earned eight of 10 first-place votes to head up the list, followed by Blinn, Lamar State Port Arthur, Jacksonville, Angelina, Coastal Bend and Victoria. Blinn earned two first-place votes, and Jacksonville picked up one top vote.

WomenThe Lady Rangers, under fourth-year head coach Addie Lees, are picked behind Trinity Valley, Tyler, Panola, Blinn and Angelina and ahead of Paris, Bossier Parish, Coastal Bend and Jacksonville in the preseason poll.

TVCC earned 8 first-place votes, with Tyler picking up the other two top votes.

Kilgore finished 10-13 a year ago, reaching the Region XIV Conference Tournament and dropping a 79-77 decision to Panola in the first round.

Of KC’s 13 losses, more than half (7) were by seven points or less — including a one-point loss, a couple of two-point losses and a three-point setback.

Lees is starting her fourth season at KC and has a 54-31 record. She’ll return a veteran squad that brings back 5-8 guard Rahmena Henderson, 5-8 guard/forward Mckenze Brown, 5-5 guard Vianey Galvan, 6-3 forward/post Tara Green, 5-10 guard/forward Maya Scheitel-Taylor, 5-9 guard Kerrighan Dunn and 5-6 guard Jada Hood.

Tara Kessner, a 6-2 post, returns after taking a year off. Other newcomers include 5-7 guard Naomi Shorts, 5-8 guard Melissa Girondin, 5-4 guard Alexis Calderon, 5-5 guard Aaliyah Hill, 6-1 forward/post Kelci Wilson and 6-0 post De’Asia Thomas.

The Lady Rangers open the season at home on Nov. 3 against Eastern Oklahoma State College. The conference opener is set for Dec. 8 at home against Paris.

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Follow Jack Stallard on Twitter: @lnjsports

Sports editor

I've covered sports in East Texas since 1987, starting as a 21-year-old sports editor at the Kilgore News Herald before spending seven years at the Lufkin Daily News and the past 23 years at the Longview News-Journal.