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At 24-3, Makana Stone and Whitman wait to see if they will get an at-large bid to the NCAA D-III women’s basketball national championship tourney. (Photo by JohnsPhotos.net)

Now, they wait.

Stung by a cold start and a perfectly-executed play by their opponent at the very end, the Whitman College women’s basketball team fell 57-55 to visiting George Fox University Saturday in the championship game of the Northwest Conference postseason tourney.

The loss, the first on their home court this season, drops the Blues to 24-3 and snaps a 12-game winning streak.

With the win, George Fox, which finished in third-place in the nine-team league during the regular season, earns an automatic bid to the NCAA D-III women’s basketball national championships.

Whitman, which won the regular season league crown and entered the night ranked #7 in the nation, now has to wait to see if it will get an at-large bid.

The full 64-team bracket will be revealed Monday.

Saturday’s game was just plain rough for Whitman, which, for one of the few times this season, just couldn’t seem to get in sync.

A big part of the credit for that goes to George Fox’s defense, which shut down the paint, knocked the Blues around — Coupeville’s Makana Stone, the league Player of the Year, spent much of the game bouncing off the floor — and set the Bruins up for success.

Also helping the visitors was an unexpected run at the free throw line.

A fairly poor-shooting team at the charity stripe this season, George Fox was the exact opposite Saturday, knocking down 20-25 shots, to just 7-11 by Whitman.

Other than a terrible opening for the Blues, in which they went scoreless for eight-plus minutes and fell behind 9-0, the game was a gut-check, with neither team able to pull away.

Whitman seemed to have the upper hand when it opened up a late 53-47 lead in the fourth, capped by Mady Burdett drilling the bottom out of the net on a long three-ball off of an offensive rebound.

Unfortunately, the Blues couldn’t deliver the knockout punch, giving George Fox a chance to storm back and take the lead at 55-53.

Unable to get the ball to Stone down low — she was smothered, and finished with just three field goal attempts and three times that many bruises, taking shots to the head, ribs, and hand — Whitman banged away from the outside, and couldn’t get the ball to drop.

With the game on the line, point guard Taylor Chambers came roaring in from the right side and got a wildly-bouncing layup to go down with just 3.2 seconds left, seemingly setting up overtime.

But George Fox had a final miracle in hand, as Haley Strowbridge got the last two of her game-high 20 points when she rolled hard to the hoop, pulled in a lob over the defense, and banked in the runner.

Down to just 1.5 seconds to play, Whitman got a final off-balance, heavily-contested three-ball attempt up in the air, but it never came close to rippling the net.

The sour finish capped a game in which there were 14 lead changes and five ties, most of them in the second half.

After trailing 9-0, Whitman finally got on the board when senior Katie Stahl banged home a three-ball with 1:42 to play in the first quarter.

From there, the Blues crawled back to within 11-7 at the first break, then surged ahead 16-11 midway through the second quarter.

George Fox recovered, though, using its potent mix of deadly free throw shooting and clamp-down defense, and went into the locker room up 27-23.

Whitman pulled back into the lead, for a hot moment at least, with a 42-41 advantage heading into the final frame.

Burdett paced the Blues with 14, while Kaylie McCracken added 11, and Chambers popped for 10.

Barely able to touch the ball for much of the night, Stone was limited to four points, a team-high five rebounds, and a blocked shot.

On the season, the former Coupeville ace has 409 points, 225 rebounds, 37 assists, 26 steals, and 26 blocks, while shooting 166-316 (52.5%) from the floor and 74-96 (77%) at the line.

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Coupeville’s Makana Stone went for 16 points and 10 rebounds Friday as Whitman clinched at least a share of the league title. (Photo by JohnsPhotos.net)

They have a share. Now, they want the whole thing.

Powered by a 16-point, 10-rebound performance Friday from Coupeville’s Makana Stone, the Whitman College women’s basketball team clinched at least part of the Northwest Conference title for the first time since 2014.

The Blues used a strong second-half surge to bounce visiting George Fox University 70-53, winning their eighth-straight game.

Now 12-1 in league play, 20-2 overall, Whitman sits three games up on George Fox (9-4, 17-5) and Pacific University (9-4, 15-7) with three regular-season games left to play.

One more Blues win and they clinch everything, from sole possession of the league crown, to the #1 seed in the four-team postseason tourney, which decides the league’s automatic qualifier for the NCAA D-III championships.

Whitman would love to get that win Saturday afternoon, when it hosts Pacific on Senior Night.

The Boxers are the only NWC team to solve the Blues this season, upending them 65-64 in Oregon Jan. 18, after rallying from 19 points down.

Revenge and celebration will be the theme Saturday, as Whitman honors seniors Stone, Mady Burdett, Lily Gustafson, Katie Stahl, and Natalie Whitesel.

Since uniting in Walla Walla, the five-pack has helped the Blues go 88-19, with two trips to the NCAA tourney and a third invite all but certain to happen this season.

As freshmen, they were part of a team which went all the way to the Elite Eight.

The one thing Stone and Co. hadn’t done was win a conference title. While they won the NWC postseason tourney as freshmen, the Blues had finished 3rd, 2nd, and 2nd in the regular season the past three seasons.

A big part of that was George Fox, who has been a thorn in their side.

Until now.

This time around, Whitman swept the season series from the Bruins, though the two teams could meet again in the postseason.

Friday night, the Blues were back at home at the Sherwood Athletic Center after completing a recent four-game road trip.

Whitman is undefeated on its home hardwood this season, and it looked like the matchup with George Fox would be a blowout in the early going.

Bolting out to a 19-8 lead after one quarter of play, the Blues were clicking, but, as always, the Bruins weren’t about to give up easily.

Battling back into the game, George Fox tied things up, before Stone nailed back-to-back jumpers to send Whitman into the halftime locker room with a narrower than expected 32-29 advantage.

The Blues have been a dominant second-half team this season, and Friday was one more well-written chapter in their book of success.

Stone slapped home a layup to give Whitman a 36-34 lead early in the third, and this time the Blues never gave the advantage back.

Having stretched the lead to 49-41 exiting the third quarter, the home town heroes slammed the gas pedal through the floorboards in the final frame, roaring to their eighth victory in as many games in front of their home fans.

Kaylie McCracken paced Whitman with 18 points, while Stone and Burdett each popped for 16.

To go along with her game-high 10 rebounds, the former Coupeville ace also collected three assists, two steals, and two blocked shots in 34 minutes of all-around excellence.

On the season, Stone has 348 points, 185 rebounds, 33 assists, 25 steals, and 20 blocks, and is shooting 142-266 (53.3%) from the field and 61-79 (77.2%) at the line.

The #5 scorer in Whitman women’s history, the CHS grad finished Friday with 1,275 career points.

Stone also hit all four of her free throw attempts against George Fox, with the final one being the 200th successful charity shot of her collegiate career.

She needs three rebounds on Senior Night to reach 800 (she’s #3 in program history), and 28 minutes of floor time to top 2,500 for her time at Whitman.

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CHS grad Makana Stone netted 19 points Saturday as Whitman stormed back from 16 down to beat George Fox. (Photo by JohnsPhotos.net)

From heartbroken to heartbreakers.

A night after blowing a 19-point lead, the Whitman College women’s basketball team rallied from 16 down Saturday to pull out a stunning come-from-behind win on the road in Oregon.

Sparked by the wham-bam twins, Mady Burdett and Coupeville’s Makana Stone, the Blues thrashed George Fox University in the fourth quarter, claiming a 62-54 win.

The victory gives Whitman a weekend split, after a one-point loss at Pacific University Friday, lifting it to 5-1 in Northwest Conference play, 13-2 overall.

The Blues are a game back of Pacific (6-0, 12-3) and a game up on Linfield (4-2, 10-5) and Willamette (4-2, 10-5) with 10 games left to play in the regular season.

If George Fox (3-3, 11-4) had held on for the win, there would have been a four-team logjam for second-place.

Instead, thanks to their splendid seniors, who both left the game with third quarter injuries, only to return stronger than ever, the Blues return to Walla Walla riding a high note.

It didn’t look like it would go that way for much of the game Saturday, as George Fox came out blazing from behind the three-point arc and built a 23-13 lead after one quarter.

Things looked even worse when the Bruins stretched the margin out to 29-13 early in the second frame.

But, you live by the three-ball, you can die by the three-ball, and Whitman can sink treys with just about anyone.

The Blues got back in the game with a 12-0 run, with Burdett raining down back-to-back bombs, followed by a rainbow off the fingertips of Kaelan Shamseldin.

Stone picked up assists on treys #2 and #3, drawing the defense to her side of the floor, then kicking the ball cross-court to open teammates.

And, just to make sure everyone knows her game is well-rounded, the former CHS star then knocked down a three-ball of her own the next time down the floor.

Back within 36-31 at the half, things were looking up for Whitman.

Then came the third quarter, a frame in which the entire season seemed to totter on the edge.

Stone went down first, landing awkwardly after snagging a rebound and crashing to the floor. Then, Burdett followed her to the bench after getting smacked, hard, on a drive to the hoop.

Without their primary scoring threats as options, the Blues struggled, watching a four-point deficit balloon back out to 10 by the end of the quarter.

If Blues fans had some hope, a large part of it came when Stone and Burdett both returned late in the frame, erasing any lingering doubts they might have suffered serious injury.

George Fox was still feeling pretty good, up 50-40 in front of an enthusiastic home crowd, and seemingly in control of things.

Spoiler: it was not in control.

Stone lit the fuse in the fourth with an emphatic blocked shot, then drained a pair of free throws to kick off what would become a game-breaking 18-0 run.

Back-to-back treys from Burdett fired up the Blues, Stone rolled inside for a layup to tie the game, and then Whitman claimed its first lead of the night on a pair of free throws from Kaylie McCracken.

With the Blues playing a withering defense in the fourth, George Fox’s shooting touch went into the deep freeze, and never emerged.

Held scoreless for the first nine minutes and five seconds of a 10-minute final frame, the Bruins could only weep silently as Burdett and Shamseldin capped the run with two more three-balls.

From there, Whitman iced the win at the free throw line, then danced away having decided the game with a 22-4 note-perfect performance in the fourth.

Burdett rippled the nets for six treys while hitting on a game-high 22 points, while Stone collected 19 points, four rebounds, three assists, and two blocks in 32 minutes of action.

On the season, Coupeville’s progeny has 233 points, 117 rebounds, 21 assists, 18 steals, and 15 blocks, while shooting 94-175 (53.7%) from the floor and 42-54 (77.7%) at the free throw line.

Stone also moved into 6th place on the Whitman women’s career scoring list Saturday, passing former teammate Casey Poe with a turnaround jumper in the first quarter.

With 1,161 points and counting, she’s 83 points away from claiming 5th.

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Makana Stone collected 10 points, 13 rebounds, and three steals Saturday in a college basketball playoff game. (Photo by JohnsPhotos.net)

Now they wait to find out their fate.

Swamped by too many turnovers and too many missed shots, especially from outside the paint, the Whitman College women’s basketball squad came up short Saturday in Newberg, OR.

Falling 66-52 to host George Fox University in the championship game of the Northwest Conference postseason tourney, the Blues fell a win shy of earning an automatic bid to the NCAA D-III national championships.

While George Fox (24-3) is definitely on its way to March Madness, Whitman (20-7) waits until the selection show Monday to find out if it gets in with at an-large bid.

The Blues have a strong body of work to support their quest for an invite, including a 19-point win over George Fox earlier this season.

Unfortunately, Whitman couldn’t repeat that victory Saturday, a game in which it got swarmed by an ultra-aggressive defense and buckled.

In a contest where 10 different Bruins scored, Whitman essentially played 2-on-5 for much of the night.

Senior Maegan Martin, who had never topped 20 in her college playing days, poured in a game-high 28, while Coupeville’s Makana Stone delivered with 10 points, 13 rebounds, three steals, and a big blocked shot.

Whitman’s twin towers got little help from their teammates, however, with no one else scoring more than three points.

In between a horrifying amount of turnovers (some forced, many not), the Blues hit on just 19 of 47 shots, including a crippling 6-21 in the first half.

For the game, the #1 three point shooting team in the league went 0-9, while George Fox rattled home 7-19.

Whitman came into the title game averaging 76 points a night, but started cold and never fully recovered.

The Blues didn’t get their first bucket until two-and-a-half minutes in, when Mady Burdett knocked down a runner.

It would be the only shot the First-Team All-Conference guard, who averages 15 points a game, would hit while being hounded relentlessly by platoons of Bruins.

Down just 16-10 at the first break, Whitman suffered through a brutal second quarter, watching its deficit balloon out to 21 points shortly before halftime.

Martin swished a pair of free throws, followed by Stone taking a steal coast-to-coast for a layup to end the half, but George Fox squashed every Whitman comeback hope in the second half.

Down by 20, the Blues ended the third on a 9-0 surge, but the Bruins immediately answered to open the fourth.

It was virtually the same seven minutes later, as Whitman, behind their interior one-two punch, closed to within 10 with a hair over three minutes to play.

George Fox promptly came up court, ran the clock down, then drilled another three-ball to permanently ice the game.

While she’s hoping for a trip to the NCAA tourney, Martin, Whitman’s lone senior, played what could be her final collegiate game with a vengeance.

An Honorable Mention selection when the NWC picked its All-Conference teams last week, she has been a strong role player all four years.

Martin’s career high entering Saturday’s game was 19 points, but she carried the Blues, hitting 11-18 from the field and 6-7 from the line.

Stone dominated the boards, with her 13 rebounds coming in a game in which no other player, on either team, collected more than six.

It was the 12th double-double for the former Wolf ace this season.

As she waits for an NCAA bid, Stone sits with 388 points, 227 rebounds, 40 assists, 31 steals, and 21 blocks during her junior campaign.

She’s hit 162-318 (50.9%) from the floor and 63-79 (79.7%) from the line.

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Coupeville grad Makana Stone returned from an injury to score a team-high 16 points Friday for Whitman. (Photo by JohnsPhotos.net)

It was a good news, bad news kind of night Friday in Walla Walla.

On the positive side, Coupeville’s Makana Stone was back on the floor after missing a game with a sprained ankle.

But while the former Wolf was running seemingly effortlessly after sitting a week-plus, and went off for a team-high 16 points, Whitman College came up just short in the biggest game of the year.

With Stone padlocked to the bench after picking up a phantom fifth foul with two-and-a-half minutes to play, the Blues couldn’t hold on to a one-point lead in the final minute, falling 61-57 to visiting George Fox.

The loss gives Whitman a season split with their biggest women’s basketball rivals, with both teams winning on the other’s floor, and it comes at a crucial time.

George Fox, the defending Northwest Conference champs, moves to 12-1 in league play, and sits a game up on Whitman (11-2) with three to play.

Whitman, 17-5 overall, has already clinched one of the four playoff berths for the NWC postseason tourney, and can finish no lower than third in the final standings.

The Blues finish their run through the nine-team league with a string of tough games.

After hosting #4 Linfield (7-6, 11-11) Saturday on Senior Night, Whitman closes the regular season on the road Feb. 15-16 against #3 Puget Sound (10-3, 17-4) and #5 Pacific Lutheran (6-7, 13-8).

Friday night’s rumble with George Fox pitted the top offense in the Northwest Conference against the top defense.

In the end, the defense triumphed … with a little help from the refs, who compounded the call on Stone by also whiffing on a crucial non-call with 12 seconds to go which would have given Whitman a chance to tie the game.

Right before fouling out, Stone hit a huge bank shot to cut Whitman’s deficit to 51-49.

Even after losing their top scorer and rebounder, the Blues hung tough, taking a 53-52 lead with a hair over a minute to play, thanks to back-to-back buckets from Taylor Chambers, who hadn’t scored all night.

Whitman then shrugged off a George Fox three-ball thanks to a nifty Natalie Whitesel reverse layup which knotted things at 55 all.

The final 30 seconds, though, belonged to Bruin star Emily Spencer.

A demon on defense all night, she stepped up to drill the already-mentioned trey, then put George Fox ahead to stay with a slashing layup with just 26 ticks left on the clock.

Whitesel had a chance to go to the line, but all three refs ignored the Prairie High School grad being hammered by a host of Bruins on the ensuing layup attempt.

From there, George Fox swished all four of its free throw attempts in the game’s final 10 seconds, with Spencer appropriately dropping the final daggers, and Whitman’s last chance wafted away.

The game started as an offensive show, with Stone slamming home six points in the opening quarter, to go with 10 from hot-shooting teammate Mady Burdett.

While Whitman trailed 22-20 at the first break, thanks to George Fox scoring right at the buzzer, the Blues looked strong.

And no one played as effectively as Stone did, as she picked the ball from a George Fox ball-handler and went coast to coast for a breakaway bucket.

On defense, she was equally a force, rejecting a shot and twice forcing opposing post players into committing travels as they tried to get around her in the paint.

A Burdett three-ball capped a 7-0 Whitman run, sending the Blues into the locker room up 33-30.

That stirred positive memories of the first meeting between these teams, for everyone from the announcers on the internet stream to random people watching the feed in ice-covered Coupeville.

Back on Jan. 12 in Newberg, OR, Whitman savaged George Fox in the third quarter and turned a three-point halftime bulge into a 73-54 blowout.

Friday night, however, the Blues went cold from the outside, and it hurt them.

After scoring 13 in the first half, Burdett was held scoreless across the game’s final 20 minutes.

Meanwhile, Whitman, the best three-ball-shooting team in the league, suffered through a 3 for 17 performance from behind the arc.

Stone did what she could, powering her way to three more buckets in the third, but Spencer stung Whitman for the first of many times, popping an offensive rebound back up and in with a single second on the clock.

That staked George Fox to a 45-44 lead heading into the fourth, and then the ref’s glaucoma became an issue.

Stone, who missed a chunk of the game after injuring herself against Whitworth Jan. 29, then sat out against Lewis & Clark Feb. 1, made her return an auspicious one.

Netting her 16 points on strong 8-11 shooting, she also ripped down six rebounds, pilfered two steals and rejected a shot in 27 minutes of floor time.

On the season, the Whitman junior sits with 313 points, 181 rebounds, 38 assists, 25 steals and 18 blocks.

Stone is shooting 132-257 from the floor and 48-62 at the free throw line.

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