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Coupeville’s Makana Stone scored 11 of her 19 points in the fourth quarter Saturday. (Photo property Loughborough University)

Two wins from a title.

With their American assassin coming up big in the fourth quarter Saturday, Loughborough University held off plucky Reading 72-63 in the quarterfinals of England’s Women’s National Basketball League playoffs.

Coupeville grad Makana Stone erupted for 11 of her 19 points in the final frame, spurring the Riders from a seven-point deficit.

With the win, Loughborough, which entered the eight-team, single-elimination WNBL playoffs as the #3 seed, gets to 13-5 on the season.

The victory avenges a regular season loss to Reading in April, and sends the Riders on to a semifinal clash with #2 seed CoLA Southwark next Saturday, May 22.

Regular-season champ Ipswich faces off with #5 Nottingham Trent in the other final-four matchup.

In the buildup to the playoffs, Reading and Loughborough split a pair of regular season games, and through three quarters Saturday the Rockets looked primed to pull off a postseason upset.

A game which had been knotted 12-12 after one, then 32-30 in favor of the Riders at the half, took a disastrous turn in the third frame.

Reading jumped on Loughborough, ripping off a 15-6 run to carry a 45-38 advantage into the fourth.

But Stone and her British teammates never flinched, calmly fighting back while closing the game on a torrid 24-8 tear.

Coupeville’s progeny kicked things off by making off with a steal, then slapping home a breakaway bucket to open the period, and the fuse was lit.

Loughborough got all the way back to 45-45, then claimed the lead for good at 48-47 when Katie Januszewska rippled the net on a three-ball with a tick over seven minutes to play.

Reading hung around for a bit more, staying within 52-51 at the five-minute mark, but Stone promptly sliced and diced the Rockets defense for another layup to blunt the rally.

The former Wolf, who also snatched nine rebounds and pilfered three steals, held her team together even as they shot just 28% from the floor, hitting just 21 of 74 attempts.

Stone hit 50% of her field goal tries (6-12), and was a dead-eye 7-9 at the free-throw line, on a day when none of her teammates topped 33% from the floor.

Januszewska did match Stone’s 19-point effort, with Molly James tossing in 10.

On the season, Stone, who is nominated for the WNBL’s Player of the Year, Team of the Year, and Defensive Player of the Year honors, has 259 points in 16 games.

She also has 224 rebounds, 33 assists, 57 steals, and eight blocked shots.

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Coupeville’s Makana Stone continues to tear up the British hardwood. (Photo property Loughborough University)

It’s an honor just to be nominated.

Or so says everyone as they wait with bated breath, hoping to be a winner.

Coupeville basketball fans have a stake in England’s Women’s National Basketball League awards season, which begins May 24.

That’s because Wolf grad Makana Stone is a nominee for Player of the Year, Team of the Year, and Defensive Player of the Year.

The Loughborough University whirlwind has the third-best adjusted efficiency rating (43.9) of the 26 players up for Player of the Year.

She trails just Gonzaga signee Esther Little (55.5) and Harriet Welham (46.7), both of league champ Ipswich.

The top five vote getters in Player of the Year balloting will make up the WNBL Team of the Year.

Stone is also up for Defensive Player of the Year, one of 16 nominees in that category.

The former Wolf is also ranked #3 in that field, with her blocked shots plus steals (4.4 per game) trailing just Reading’s Sitota Gines Espinosa (5.9) and Little (5.6).

Loughbrough, which is 12-5 on the season, 12-3 with Stone in the lineup, faces off with Reading Saturday in the WNBL quarterfinals.

Other awards, none of which Stone is eligible for, include the British Team of the Year, the Young (U19) Player of the Year, Coach of the Year, and Best Streaming.

The daughter of Josh and Eileen Stone, and lil’ sister of Andre, Makana is a graduate of Whitman College, where she put together one of the best runs in the school’s distinguished history of women’s basketball.

Heading into the playoffs, she has 240 points, 215 rebounds, 32 assists, 54 steals, and eight blocks in a Loughborough uniform.

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After missing her sophomore season with a busted ankle, Ja’Kenya Hoskins is ready to rumble. (Photos by JohnsPhotos.net)

It’s a whole new ballgame.

As Coupeville High School girls basketball players and coaches prep for a new season, much is different.

The Wolves are in a new classification, with the school’s student body count moving them from 1A to 2B.

With that comes a move from the 1A North Sound Conference, lorded over by state power King’s, to the much-more competitive Northwest 2B/1B League.

Then, there’s the whole ongoing pandemic thing, which moved the season from winter out to spring, with a compressed 12-game schedule set to run from May 18-June 17.

On the floor, second-year Wolf head coach Scott Fox has a roster in flux, with some unexpected losses, but also some positive gains.

The return from injury of junior forward Ja’Kenya Hoskins, who broke her ankle playing dodgeball right before her sophomore campaign, is the big headline.

She’ll be joined by fellow juniors Izzy Wells, Audrianna Shaw, Anya Leavell, and Kylie Van Velkinburgh, as well as sophomores Maddie Georges and Carolyn Lhamon, all returnees from a varsity team which went 12-7 during the 2019-2020 season.

Maddie Georges slices through the defense.

Georges, a speedy point guard who tallied 86 points as a freshman, is the leading active scorer for the Wolves, as senior Chelsea Prescott opted not to play this season.

Prescott, who sits at #44 on the CHS girls career scoring chart with 249 points, is one of three varsity players who didn’t return, along with senior Mollie Bailey and sophomore Nezi Keiper.

That leaves opportunity for JV players to move up, though one who likely would have, tough-as-nails guard Alita Blouin, will miss the season with a back injury.

With player numbers down, a new wrinkle comes into play, as 2B schools can use 8th graders to help fill out its varsity and/or JV rosters.

However his lineup works out, Fox is ready for the challenge.

“We are young and don’t have the size or senior experience we had last year, but they were playing well together in the summer and fall before Covid shut us down,” he said.

“It does feel strange to be playing in May/June and with masks on,” Fox added. “We are going to compete in every game, but we have some talented schools in this league that make regular trips to the state tournament.

“Our goal is to be one of those teams, and I don’t think we are too far off.”

While all six of their league foes will bring a strong effort each time out, two stand out in particular.

“La Conner is really good!,” Fox said. “Scott Novak does a great job over there, and they have been to the (2B) state championship game a few times.

“Not far behind is Mount Vernon Christian, which is also talented and plays extremely hard,” he added. “They also make frequent state tournament runs at the 1B level.”

Getting away from private schools which often exist as “destination schools” for athletes who live in other areas is a plus for the small-town public school Wolves.

“I’m looking forward to the new league because it puts us on par with schools our size, but is still really competitive,” Fox said.

“Travel is always an issue when you’re going to Darrington, Concrete, Orcas, and Friday Harbor, but all schools in this league have to travel long distances, so it’s an equalizer.”

While Coupeville doesn’t have a lot of tall towers to clog up the middle, it does have girls who can play multiple positions, and have shown a desire to always be competitive.

Carolyn Lhamon stays calm under pressure.

“The strength of our team is our athleticism,” Fox said. “We have some real athletes out there that I want to run the court with while playing aggressive defense.

“I’d like to press more this year, but with the kids having to wear mandatory face masks, we need to be cognizant how much to push this style of play.”

With the pandemic-altered campaign sort of like an extended summer season, the young Wolves will continue to work on the small things, which can have a big payoff down the road.

“Our backbone is our defense, and I would like to improve on our transition offense from steals or missed shots,” Fox said. “We drill on this often in practice, and so far I like what I see.

“We’re looking to improve as a team, be competitive in every game, and have fun playing basketball again!”

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Makana Stone nets another honor. (Photo property FocusHoops).

She’s bona fide.

Coupeville grad Makana Stone was named to the National Basketball League Team of the Week Tuesday, the ninth time she’s received the honor this season.

The former Wolf, who’s playing for Loughborough University in England, was honored for her play Saturday in the regular-season finale, when she went for 20 points, 14 rebounds, and three assists in a 75-73 win over Nottingham Trent.

Stone netted three free throws in the final 12 seconds to lift the Riders to the come-from-behind win.

Loughborough, which is 12-5 overall, 12-3 with their American assassin in the lineup, open the single-elimination, eight-team NBL playoffs with a home clash against Reading May 15.

On the season, Stone sits with 240 points, 215 rebounds, 32 assists, 54 steals, and eight blocked shots.

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Makana Stone went for 20 points and 14 rebounds Saturday, icing a win with four free throws in the final seconds. (Photo property Loughborough University)

Ice water in those veins.

Coupeville’s Makana Stone drained three free throws in the final 12 seconds Saturday in England, lifting the Loughborough University women’s basketball team to a thrilling 75-73 win over Nottingham Trent.

Trailing by a point, the Riders forced a turnover down low as the clock ticked down, with their American assassin fouled in the ensuing scrum.

Stone calmly drained both ends of the one-and-one to put Loughborough up 74-73, then came back around to hit another freebie after a technical foul on Nottingham’s coaching staff with just 2.8 seconds to play.

Nottingham gunner Mady Burdett, who played alongside Stone for four spectacular seasons at Whitman College, had a three-ball from the corner to win the game at the buzzer, but the ball refused to stay in the basket.

With the win, Loughborough finishes the regular season at 12-5 overall, 12-3 with Stone in the lineup, and clinches a top-three finish in the 10-team National Basketball League.

The Riders will be the league’s #2 seed headed into the playoffs, unless CoLA Southwark sweeps a pair of games this weekend.

The top eight squads, led by league champs Ipswich, begin the single-elimination playoffs next Saturday, May 15.

The battle against Nottingham Trent was a furious one, with neither squad able to pull away.

Loughborough, riding an eight-point opening quarter from Stone, led 20-15 at the first break, but was clinging to just a 34-33 advantage when halftime rolled around.

The Riders stretched their lead out, but just slightly, at 53-51 headed into the fourth quarter, and things got dicey from there.

With Stone strapped to the bench due to foul trouble, Nottingham claimed the lead at 61-60 with five-and-a-half minutes to play, and there were six lead changes over the next five minutes.

Coupeville’s progeny bounded back into the game, slapping home a layup to stake Loughborough to a 68-67 lead at the 2:30 mark.

But her former Whitman running mate was on fire, as Burdett drained a pair of three-balls to push Nottingham up 73-68.

Loughborough’s defense proved to be its biggest weapon down the stretch, with the Riders holding Nottingham scoreless over the game’s final 77 seconds.

Robyn Ainge singed the nets for a long trey to get the Riders back within a bucket, before Stone scored the game’s final four points at the charity stripe.

The former Wolf finished with a team-high 20 points (Burdett rattled the rim for 21) and snagged a game-best 14 rebounds to go with three assists and a steal.

Katie Januszewska dropped in 16 points for the Riders, while Ainge finished with 13.

On the season Stone sits with 240 points, 215 rebounds, 32 assists, 54 steals, and eight blocked shots.

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