STANFORD, Calif. — Montana State and Stanford battled for four quarters, with the Cardinal overpowering the Bobcats en route to a 78-37 win in the first round of the NCAA tournament.
But after the game, legendary Cardinal coach Tara Vanderveer and Bobcat junior forward Kola Bad Bear, shared a moment that was bigger than basketball.
Through her friend Vikki Howard, who works with indigenous teachers in the Montana University System, Vanderveer became aware of Bad Bear’s advocacy for Missing Murdered and Indigenous People.
And she offered some words of encouragement.
“I knew where she was from, and I know a lot of people were watching her. She came from Pryor and she's a Crow, and just to let her know that it was great that she was getting her degree,” Vanderveer said after the game. “And I just wanted to let her know that people back there were cheering for her. It was fun to talk to her. She's a very, very nice young lady.”
Bad Bear wasn’t available to media after the game, but her coach Tricia Binford said the moment between her player and three-time NCAA champion coach is an example of what a great ambassador Kola is for her team, her school, her state and her tribe.
“There's things Kola is doing beyond the game of basketball. You've been witness to some of our home games with No More Stolen Sisters, all the outreach she's doing, the platform she has, and the responsibility she's taking with it,” Binford said. “She is just a fantastic young lady. She's an amazing teammate. And she's a really talented basketball player.
“We grabbed all of our kids afterwards. Like, every season unless you're No. 1, you're going to finish with a loss. This hurts today, but boy, are we super proud, and we're so proud of the people that they are.”
Bad Bear is a junior and part of a talented returning core, so there might be more opportunities for more conversations about the issues she’s passionate about at next year's NCAA tournament.