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Kola Bad Bear's last-second shot lifts MSU Billings to big win over Western Washington

MSUB women
Posted at 8:54 AM, Feb 23, 2024

(Editor's note: MSU Billings news release)

BILLINGS — The Montana State University Billings women's basketball team earned a crucial 48-46 victory over Western Washington University in Great Northwest Athletic Conference play with a last-second shot from Kola Bad Bear proving to be the difference in the game.

In a matchup between the No. 11 and No. 13 teams in the country, the No. 11 Yellowjackets (23-4, 14-1 GNAC) overcame a 13-point deficit at the half to rally back and pick up the win over the Vikings (20-5, 13-3). The win gave MSUB a two-game lead over Western Washington in the GNAC standings with just three conference games remaining in the regular season.

"It was a tale of two halves tonight," said MSUB head coach Kevin Woodin. "To have a game where two teams like these are held to under 50 points shows you how tremendous the defense was tonight. Alisha (Breen) and Janiel (Begger) did a great job preparing us defensively tonight."

Dyauni Boyce led the way scoring wise, totaling 16 points, going 12 of 13 from the free throw line, while adding six rebounds, three assists and two steals. Kortney Nelson had 12 points with four rebounds, three assists, two steals and a block, while Bad Bear scored 11 points with four rebounds and a pair of blocks. Natalie Andreas scored four points for MSUB, while Shayla Montague had three points and three steals. Aspen Giese had six rebounds and one assist, steal and block each.

The 'Jackets got off to a slow start in the first quarter, only managing to make two field goals in the first 10 minutes of play. The Vikings would take advantage of that to jump out to an eight-point lead at the end of the first quarter, getting a boost from beyond the arc, where they went 4 of 6 in the quarter. The Vikings would keep up their scoring efforts in the second quarter as well, while the Yellowjackets still struggled to gain any momentum on the offensive end. They would manage just nine points in the quarter and hold a shooting percentage of 20% at halftime, where Western Washington held a 30-17 lead.

But the Yellowjackets would come out of the half a completely different team and improved dramatically on both sides of the ball in the third quarter. MSUB would slowly chip away at the Vikings' lead, outscoring the visitors 19-6 over the next 10 minutes. MSUB would make more shots from the field in the third quarter than it did in the entire first half and went 6 for 7 from the free throw line, while holding the Vikings to just 23.1% shooting and five turnovers to even the game at 36 apiece heading into the fourth quarter.

"I thought we became more aggressive in the third quarter," Woodin said. "Dyauni and Kortney did a great job attacking the basket and getting to the line for us, and our defense was able to get us some buckets in transition. It wasn't an offensive explosion by any means, but I'm proud of how we improved on that end in the second half."

The final period was a tense affair, with the lead changing hands five times as the first- and second-place teams in the conference battled to take the win. The Yellowjackets would take a three-point lead with 6:51 remaining, but Western Washington responded with an 8-3 run over the next three minutes to take the lead back with three minutes remaining. Nelson would tie it up with a pair of free throws, and the teams would trade opportunities to try to take the final lead. But it would be Bad Bear who would rise to the occasion. With just seconds remaining, she would collect a missed 3-point attempt by Boyce and fight through the contact to put up an off-balance shot, which would bank in to give the Yellowjackets the lead with just 1.7 seconds on the clock. Western Washington would have one more chance, but the final look would miss everything, as the Yellowjackets avenged their previous loss in Bellingham and moved two games clear of the field in their quest for a GNAC regular season title.

"We just wanted to be close and have a chance late," said Woodin. "And Kola did a great job at the end, hitting the offensive glass and putting in that last bucket. I'm happy that she was able to have the opportunity to make a shot like that at the end of the game. She gave us everything she had tonight."

Stephanie Peterson led Western Washington in scoring with 18 points, adding eight rebounds and two assists. Mason Oberg scored 11 points, while Brooke Walling had eight points and eight rebounds.

The Yellowjackets have now matched their total GNAC wins from last season with 14 and have a chance to match their total for most GNAC wins in a single season at 15. They play their final game of the season in Alterowitz Gym Saturday when they take on Simon Fraser University. Tipoff is scheduled for 2 p.m. with a ceremony to recognize MSUB's four senior players set to start 10 minutes prior to tipoff.