Lori Blade, former SIUE student-athlete and Athletics Hall-of-Famer, was named the National High School Athletics Coaches Association’s Coach of the Year in girls basketball.
Blade, a former SIUE softball and basketball star, was given the honor after leading Edwardsville High School’s girls basketball team through an undefeated season and state finals appearance.
The Tigers were 32-0 heading into the state championship game at Redbird Arena in Bloomington-Normal where they faced 32-1 Geneva Vikings.
After a back-and-forth game, the Tigers lost a heartbreaker when Geneva’s junior guard Katie Hart hit a jump shot with 5 seconds left to take a 41-40 lead.
It was the second time in five years that Blade and Edwardsville High have been beaten in the state championship game.
Blade has led the Tigers for fifteen years, amassing 424 wins as girls basketball head coach. In the spring, Blade coaches softball, where she’s accumulated 654 victories, including two more state tournament appearances.
“She really knows the game. She understands it. What she does a great job doing is not only teaching the girls to understand the game, but teaching them so well that they can make in-game decisions on their own which is not something you see at every program,” assistant coach Caty Ponce said.
Prior to Edwardsville High, Blade coached girls basketball at Carrollton High School for eight years, five of which led to state tournament appearances, and two state championship teams in 2001 and 2002.
Throughout her career in Carrollton and Edwardsville, Blade has accumulated over 600 wins in both basketball and softball — something no other IHSA coach has ever done.
In 2016, Blade’s success was honored when she was inducted into the Illinois Basketball Coaches Association Hall of Fame.
SIUE Director of Athletics Brad Hewitt was on the Edwardsville school board when Blade was named head coach, and said he is very happy to see her success since being hired.
“It’s a reflection on her and her hard work. She’s a tremendous person, and very dedicated to her profession as a coach and a teacher. She’s been very successful in helping and teaching young people to reach their full potential. I think that’s the mark of a great coach,” Hewitt said.
During her time at SIUE, Blade played softball and basketball from 1983 to 1988 while earning her bachelor’s degree in physical education.
In women’s basketball, Blade ranks No. 12 on SIUE’s all-time scoring list with 1,144 points, and led the softball team in hits and RBIs in two seasons at SIUE.
“I’m sure a lot of her success coaching comes from her success as a player. I know she was really inspired by her coaches as a player. She’s a student of the game still,” Ponce said.
Following her playing years, Blade returned to SIUE, receiving a master’s degree in physical education in 1994. Her coaching career also began at SIUE as an assistant coach for women’s basketball before she began her head coaching career at Carrollton High.