Bad Bear’s Game-Winner Helps ‘Jackets Secure Title

Monday, February 26, 2024
by Evan O'Kelly, Assistant Commissioner For Communications

PORTLAND, Ore. – A last-ditch, putback bucket by Kola Bad Bear lifted the Montana State Billings women’s basketball team to its second regular-season title in program history, and earned her the GNAC Women’s Basketball Player of the Week award.

With the score knotted at 46-46 against No. 13 Western Washington, Bad Bear hauled in an offensive rebound before getting the decisive shot to fall with two seconds left on the clock. The Yellowjackets’ 48-46 triumph helped them clinch at least a share of the 2023-24 regular-season crown, and the Yellowjackets (24-4, 15-1 GNAC) are now one win away from wrapping up the No. 1 seed at the upcoming GNAC Women’s Basketball Championships.

“Kola had an amazing week,” said MSUB head coach Kevin Woodin. “She was a major reason our team was able to get two hard fought GNAC conference wins. Kola has been a great addition to our women’s basketball program and has bought in to our “team first” philosophy. She has impacted our team in a positive manner both on and off the court. Kola is a tremendous student-athlete, competitor, leader and teammate.”


Player of the Week – Kola Bad Bear, Montana State Billings

Second-career player of the week, second this season.

Bad Bear’s heroic shot came amid a stellar week overall, as she averaged 14.5 points, 7.0 rebounds and shot 52.9% overall from the floor. Bad Bear turned in her sixth double-double of the season in MSUB’s 86-59 win over Simon Fraser, scoring 18 points and adding 10 rebounds, five assists and three steals. Bad Bear made all nine of her free throws on the week and a pair of 3-pointers, while adding a pair of blocked shots.

Also Nominated: Elaina Mack, UAA; Emma Wass, UAF; Asher Cai, CWU; Anjel Galbraith, SMU; Mason Oberg, WWU.


Player of the Week – Dillon Barrientos, Alaska Anchorage

First-career player of the week.

Barrientos was instrumental in helping the Seawolves keep their postseason hopes alive, as they upset No. 17 Saint Martin’s 80-79 before a 72-51 triumph over Western Oregon. Barrientos had 10 assists against just one turnover in the two games, while shooting 62.5% (10-for-16) including 63.6% (7-for-11) from the 3-point line. Barrientos had five assists in each game, while totaling four steals. With the Seawolves trailing 78-71 with 2:27 remaining against the Saints, Barrientos had assists on back-to-back 3-pointers that keyed a game-winning 8-0 run.

Also Nominated: Bradley Swillie, CWU; Daniel Moody, MSUB; Ryzin Bergersen, NNU; Tyke Thompson, SMU; Shaw Anderson, SPU; Immanuel Oludele, SFU; Jason Gallant, WOU; Kai Johnson, WWU.


Player of the Week – Abigail Gagnon, Northwest Nazarene

Third-career player of the week, first this season.

Gagnon powered the Nighthawks to a 6-0 record last week, leading all GNAC players in home runs (4), RBIs (10) and hits (11) while posting a slash line of .550/.656/1.050. Gagnon had hits and RBIs in all six games, including a 4-for-4 performance in the Nighthawks’ 6-0 win over Central Washington. Gagnon added a 3-for-3 line in a 6-2 win to seal a four-game sweep of CWU, and she had multiple RBIs in her first three games of the week. Gagnon did not strike out in 23 plate appearances and made eight plays defensively at third base.

Also Nominated: Jillian Hampson, CWU; Riley Warden, MSUB; Olivia Matlock, SMU; Abby McGlynn, SFU; Chelby Smalley, WOU; Ashley Jacobson, WWU.

Pitcher of the Week – Sidney Booth, Northwest Nazarene

Tenth-career pitcher of the week, second this season.

Booth led all GNAC pitchers last week with 19 strikeouts, 21 innings pitched and three victories, helping the Nighthawks win all six of their games last week. The senior left-hander authored a pair of shutouts against Central Washington, and finished the week with an ERA of 1.33 and an opposing batting average of .205. Booth’s 24 career shutouts are third-most in GNAC history, and she tied Seattle University’s Erin Martin for the most-career GNAC Pitcher of the Week awards with her 10th.

Also Nominated: Payton Kessler, CWU; Caitlyn James, MSUB; Chloe Leverington, SMU; Alivia Holden, WOU; Kaiana Kong, WWU.


Player of the Week – Kaden Kirshenbaum, Montana State Billings

Second-career player of the week, first this season.

Kirshenbaum was the conference’s top hitter last week, leading the league in home runs (4), hits (10), runs scored (9), and all three slash categories at .625/.650/1.563. Kirshenbaum bookended the Yellowjackets’ four-game series at MSU Denver with two-homer games, and finished the week with seven RBIs and three doubles. The junior struck out just twice in 20 plate appearances, helping his team split the road series.

Also Nominated: Austin Ohland, CWU; Kaleb Karpstein, NNU; Hunter Sasaki, SMU; Curran Mitzel, WOU.

Pitcher of the Week – Arturo Alvarez, Western Oregon

Third-career pitcher of the week, first this season.

Alvarez pitched the Wolves to victory over Oregon Tech, tossing a seven-inning complete game to earn his first victory of the year. Alvarez allowed just one earned run in the 100-pitch effort, scattering five hits and striking out three batters. The first complete game of Alvarez’s career was the fourth by a GNAC pitcher this season.

Also Nominated: Daniel Charron, CWU; Sage Wayment, MSUB; Wade Duncan, NNU; Colin Driscoll, SMU.


Athlete of the Week – Ila Davis, Western Washington

Third-career athlete of the week, first this season.

Davis anchored a Western Washington quartet that notched the third-fastest distance medley relay time in GNAC history at 11:27.45 at the Ken Shannon Last Chance meet. Davis, running alongside WWU’s Sophie Wright, Caitlyn Cheney and Emmy Kroontje, finished behind only Washington State among the field of six teams competing in the event, on their way to the fastest time by a GNAC unit this season. The time was also the sixth-fastest in Division II this season, as the Vikings figure to be in contention at the upcoming NCAA Indoor Championships.

Also Nominated: Jess Chisar, UAA.


Athlete of the Week – Katie Potts, Western Washington

Third-career athlete of the week, second this season.

Potts cut loose a heave of 42’ 9.0” (13.03 meters) in the shot put at the Ken Shannon Last Chance meet over the weekend. It was the second-best throw by a Division II athlete at the meet.

Also Nominated: None.


Athlete of the Week – Ephrem Mekonnen, Simon Fraser

First-career athlete of the week.

Mekonnen earned the weekly honor by virtue of a pair of standout marks at the Ken Shannon Last Chance meet. Mekonnen ran a PR in the mile of 4:09.29, after clocking a time of 8:09.90 in the 3,000 meters the previous day. Mekonnen’s PR was a four-second improvement upon his previous best, and only two Division II runners finished ahead of him at the meet.

Also Nominated: Johan Correa, CWU; Kevin McDermott, WWU.


Athlete of the Week – Mark Warren, Western Oregon

Second-career athlete of the week, second this season.

Warren cleared a distance of 57’ 2.0” (17.42 meters) in the weight throw at the Ken Shannon Last Chance meet. The GNAC Indoor champion in the event, Warren was the top Division II finisher in seventh place among a field of 14 competitors.

Also Nominated: Miller Campbell, WWU.