MSU Billings' Kola Bad Bear MVP, top newcomer in Great Northwest Athletic Conference

Kola Bad Bear.jpg
Posted at 2:39 PM, Mar 05, 2024

(Editor's note: Great Northwest Athletic Conference release.)

PORTLAND, Ore. —  A homecoming can mean many things to different people.

A chance to be around family. An opportunity to continue growing around friends. A return to where it all started. For

Montana State Billings’ Kola Bad Bear, her homecoming to Billings after four years at Division I Montana State has come to mean a starting role for her hometown Yellowjackets, a regular season championship, and now recognition from conference coaches as the Player of the Year to lead the 2024 Great Northwest Athletic Conference All-Conference Team.

In a conference chock-full of elite scoring talent, Bad Bear put herself apart by becoming a difference-maker in her first season for the Yellowjackets, also earning Newcomer of the Year honors.

From starting all 30 games of the season to coming through as the top-scoring player for MSUB in half of its regular season competitions, Bad Bear, a Billings Senior High School grad, has been the definition of reliable.

The senior forward has scored points in every single game of her MSUB career, notching 27 double-digit scoring performances and eclipsing the 20-point mark nine times.

Her 16.5 points per game ranks sixth in the league while her six rebounds per game put her 11th in the conference.

Bad Bear has also been incredibly efficient, leading the Yellowjackets and ranking sixth in the conference by shooting 52.8% from the field and cashing in 85.9% of her attempts from the free throw line. Along with her offensive numbers, she ranks in the top 15 in the conference in steals (1.5 spg) and blocks (0.7 spg).

Bad Bear is the first Montana State Billings player to earn the top conference award since current MSUB associate head coach Alisha Breen earned the honor in 2018 and is the third ‘Jacket to earn the recognition overall.

On the whole, Montana State Billings earned all but one of the conference’s special awards, marking just the third time in GNAC history that a program has earned four special awards. Head coach Kevin Woodin earned his second straight GNAC Coach of the Year honor, the fourth of his career, for his work on the bench guiding MSUB to the regular season title with a 16-2 GNAC record (25-5 overall).

Joining Bad Bear on the all-conference team is senior guard Kortney Nelson with second-team honors. Nelson, a four-year veteran for MSUB, has been a key part of the Yellowjackets’ success and was voted the Defensive Player of the Year for her role in one of the top defenses in the league.

Montana State Billings leads the GNAC and ranks 21st in the nation with a +13.3 scoring margin and holds opponents to a conference-low 58.7 points per game.

Nelson has been a near-constant presence for the ‘Jackets on the court this season, averaging 30.2 minutes per game to rank 10th in the league. In her time on the court, she ranks third with a plus-2.2 assist-to-turnover ratio, is 16th with 3.7 defensive rebounds per game and is 23rd with 1.3 steals per contest. Offensively, Nelson dishes out an average of 3.2 assists per game to rank eighth in the league.

The final special award of the year stays in Mountain Time with Northwest Nazarene guard/forward Kendall Clark being voted by coaches as the Freshman of the Year.

In her debut campaign for the Nighthawks, Clark ranked second on the team and 13th in the league with 12 points per game to earn honorable mention all-conference. She was also 15th in the GNAC with 5.1 rebounds per contest and shot 51.3% from the field while appearing in every game of the season for NNU. Clark is the first Nighthawk to win the award since 2011.

Senior forward Brooke Walling represents regular season runner-up Western Washington on the first team as a unanimous selection for the second consecutive year.

Heading into the GNAC Championships, Walling is tied for the GNAC lead with nine rebounds per game and leads the Vikings while ranking seventh in the league with 16.4 points per game. Walling has been a force on both sides of the ball, also leading the conference with 12 double doubles and ranking 22nd in Division II with 1.93 blocks per game.

Central Washington is represented on the first team by the two top-scoring players in the conference with sophomore guard Asher Cai and junior guard Sunny Huerta both earning unanimous selection.

Cai leads the league with 20 points per game on average to rank 10th in Division II. In her sophomore season, Cai has also stepped up on the boards, tying with Walling for the GNAC lead with nine per contest. Huerta isn’t far behind Cai in terms of scoring, averaging 18.2 per game to check in at No. 28 in the nation.

She also dishes out an average of 3.6 assists per game to rank sixth in the league while ranking second in the conference with 36.1 minutes played per game.

Simon Fraser is represented by the first sisters in GNAC history to be named to the same all-conference first team in Jessica and Sophia Wisotzki. The pair lead the Red Leafs into the GNAC Championships this week with 17.4 and 16.8 points per game, respectively, to rank third and fifth in the conference.

The recognition is Jessica Wisotzki’s second first-team selection. It is the first such honor for Sophia Wisotzki as she was unanimously selected for the team after also ranking seventh in the league in steals (1.6 spg), 12th in three-point percentage (35.9%) and seventh in blocked shots (0.9 bpg).

Montana State Billings and Western Washington lead all programs with four total all-conference selections apiece, followed by Central Washington and Simon Fraser with three each.