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Makana Stone (23) and her Whitman teammates will need everything to break right Saturday for them to host a playoff game. (Photo by JohnsPhotos.net)

Six days from now, the Whitman College women’s basketball team will be in the playoffs.

But, barring a last-second reversal of fortune Saturday, the Blues and former Coupeville star Makana Stone will start the postseason on the road.

Despite a strong second-half rally Friday, Whitman couldn’t quite make up for a poor first half, falling 60-55 to the University of Puget Sound.

The road loss, coming in the next-to-last regular season game, drops the Blues, 12-3 in Northwest Conference play, 18-6 overall, into a tie for second-place with UPS (12-3).

But, since the Loggers swept the season series, also winning 75-67 in Walla Walla Jan. 19, they hold the tiebreaker.

Unless Whitman beats Pacific Lutheran (7-8) Saturday and UPS falls to Whitworth (7-8), the Blues will be the #3 seed to the four-team NWC tourney.

League champ George Fox (15-1) hosts whichever 7-8 team — PLU, Whitworth or Linfield — emerges Saturday to claim the #4 seed, while #2 hosts #3.

The first round of the single-elimination tourney goes down Feb. 21, with the title game Feb. 23.

The tourney champ gets an automatic bid to the NCAA D-III national championships, while other NWC teams will sweat out the announcement of at-large teams.

Friday’s loss came down largely to one really bad five-minute-plus stretch in the second quarter.

Whitman led through much of the first quarter, and, even after finally losing the advantage, was still hanging tough down 21-16 with 6:20 to play in the first half.

Unfortunately for the Blues, their shooting touch promptly went into deep freeze, and Puget Sound took advantage.

Using a 14-0 tear over the next five minutes and 32 seconds, the Loggers turned a close game into a potential blowout.

Kaelan Shamseldin finally snapped the scoring drought, pulling off a three-point play the hard way, but her bucket and free throw could only trim the halftime deficit to 35-19.

The second half was a different story, as Whitman shaved away at the lead with 17-9 and 19-16 runs across the final two periods.

Stone drained a jumper to pull the Blues within four points late in the third quarter, then slipped a free throw through the net to slice the margin to 49-46 with a hair under four minutes to play in the game.

Puget Sound hung tough down the stretch, though.

Even with the league’s arguably-best player, Jamie Lange, held to just seven points, the Loggers found just enough offense to persevere.

Elizabeth Prewitt rattled the rim for a game-high 20, with seven of those points coming down the stretch, to pace UPS.

For Whitman, Mady Burdett scorched the nets for 18, and the lone Blues senior, Maegan Martin, notched a double-double with 16 points and 11 rebounds.

Stone, who had to battle through foul trouble, finished with seven points, six rebounds, and an assist, while being restricted to just 13 minutes of floor time.

The former Wolf ace is sitting with 339 points, 192 rebounds, 40 assists, 25 steals, and 18 blocks for her junior campaign.

She’s shooting 144-276 from the field, and 50-65 from the line.

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Makana Stone tossed in 19 points Saturday as Whitman slipped past Linfield for a key league win. (Photo by JohnsPhotos.net)

The big three were on fire, and sometimes that’s all you need.

Getting 20 points from Mady Burdett, 19 from Coupeville’s Makana Stone, and a double-double from lone senior Maegan Martin, the Whitman College women’s basketball team rolled to a nice bounce-back win.

Knocking off visiting Linfield 72-63 Saturday on Senior Night, the Blues earned a split for the weekend and kept alive hopes of winning a Northwest Conference title.

With the victory, Whitman soars to 12-2 in league play, 18-5 overall, and stays a game back of George Fox (13-1, 20-3) with two regular-season games left on the schedule.

The Blues travel to Tacoma next weekend, where they will play Puget Sound and Pacific Lutheran.

After that comes the four-team NWC tournament, and, most likely, a bid to the NCAA D-III national tournament.

Saturday, Whitman had to bounce right back after a tough four-point loss to George Fox, and the Blues didn’t disappoint.

Burdett and Stone came out firing in the first quarter, combining for 19 points as Whitman built a 26-18 lead.

Coupeville’s progeny hit a pair of buckets off of quick slashes to the hoop, packaged around a solid turnaround jumper, while Burdett went wild from behind the three-point arc.

Tossing in a trio of treys, she finished with 13 points across the first 10 minutes.

After that, the teams settled into a fairly taut game, with just a single point separating the two squads across the final three quarters.

But, while Linfield held even with Whitman in the second (11-11) and fourth (16-16) quarters, and trailed just 19-18 in the third, the Blues never surrendered the lead.

Stone, who wasn’t bothered by any pesky reffing blunders on this night, poured in points in every quarter.

A layup and a jumper that popped up, hit the glass and rattled back in, gave her 10 at the half, then the former Wolf added a pair of buckets in the third before closing with five fourth-quarter points to blunt a late Linfield rally.

Flying down court on the kind of run CHS fans saw every day, Stone pulled in a pass off a Martin steal, beating the crowd to the bucket to stake Whitman to a 61-56 lead with five minutes to play.

Right after that, Martin put together her own mini highlight reel, raining down a rare (for her) three-ball, followed by a bucket in the paint, stretching the margin back out to double digits.

Stone capped things with a final bucket, banging away down low, uprooting her defender, then whirling and banking home a short jumper.

She snatched five rebounds and dealt out an assist to go with her 19 points (on 9-12 shooting), while Martin celebrated her regular-season home swan song with 11 points and 10 rebounds.

On the season, Stone sits with 332 points, 186 rebounds, 39 assists, 25 steals and 18 blocks.

She’s shooting 141-269 from the floor and 49-64 at the free throw 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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Whitman College won again Tuesday night, but lost Coupeville grad Makana Stone to a high ankle sprain. (Photo by JohnsPhotos.net)

It was a night of mixed emotions in Walla Walla.

On one hand, the Whitman College women’s basketball squad held off pesky Whitworth University 89-78 Tuesday, moving into sole-possession of first-place in the Northwest Conference, while giving coach Michelle Ferenz her 300th career win.

But, on a troubling note, Coupeville grad Makana Stone, the team’s leading scorer and rebounder, ended the night on crutches after suffering a possible high ankle sprain.

Limited to just 13 minutes of action, the former Wolf had four points, six rebounds and an assist when she left the game.

Stone will definitely sit out this Friday, when Whitman (10-1 in league play, 16-4 overall) hosts Lewis & Clark College (1-9, 2-17).

After that, the Blues don’t play for a solid week, until George Fox (9-1, 16-3) comes to Walla Walla for a battle royal.

Tuesday night, Whitman overcame the loss of its junior leader by spreading the offensive love out among a number of players.

Taylor Chambers knocked down a team-high 18, while Maegan Martin (16), Kaelan Shamseldin (15), and Mady Burdett (13) joined her in notching double figures.

Down by a point after the first quarter, Whitman broke the game open with two runs, taking the second frame 19-12 and the third quarter 24-16.

Stone, a three-time league player of the week this season, sits with 297 points, 175 rebounds, 38 assists, 23 steals, and 17 blocks.

She’s hit on 124-246 field goal tries and 48-62 free throw attempts.

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Coupeville grad Makana Stone tossed in 13 points Saturday as Whitman College used a second-half surge to win in Oregon and stay in first-place in the Northwest Conference. (Photo by JohnsPhotos.net)

Always be closing, with a vengeance.

A slow start against a low-level team threatened to ruin Saturday for the Whitman College women’s basketball team, but, eventually, sanity prevailed.

Busting loose from a 30-30 tie at the half with host Pacific University, the Blues ruled the second half, eventually escaping with a 69-55 win.

The victory, coming against a team which was just 1-8 in league play, lifts Whitman to 9-1 in the Northwest Conference, 15-4 overall.

The Blues maintain a tie for first place with George Fox (9-1, 16-3), with both teams two games up on Puget Sound (7-3, 14-4) with six regular season games to play.

Whitman currently owns the tiebreaker, having beaten George Fox, the defending league champs, 73-54 back on Jan. 12.

After sweeping two games in two days this weekend in Oregon, the Blues now return to Walla Walla for a four-game home-stand.

Things kick off Tuesday, Jan. 29 against Whitworth, with George Fox coming to town Feb. 8 for a rematch.

Saturday, Whitman jumped out to a 5-0 lead in the game’s first 48 seconds, riding a three-ball from Taylor Chambers and a jumper from Coupeville’s Makana Stone, and things seemed perfectly normal.

Then they got weird for awhile, as Pacific, playing way above its pay grade, snatched the lead and dictated play through much of the first half.

Stone slipped a free throw through the net for the final point of the second quarter, knotting things at 30-30, but few in attendance expected arguably the league’s best and worst teams to be tied after 20 minutes.

But there they were, and then Whitman was back down 32-30 after Pacific slapped in a layup on the first play of the third quarter.

At which point the universe righted itself, with the Blues going on an 11-3 surge, capped by a Stone jumper, that pushed the lead back in favor of the visitors.

From there, the quicker, stronger, better-shooting team began to steadily pull away, forcing the lead out to as much as 21 points in the fourth quarter before Whitman pulled its starters.

Stone finished the night with 13 points, four rebounds, three assists, and a steal, while Mady Burdett paced the Blues with a game-high 20 points.

On the season, Coupeville’s former ace sits with 293 points, 169 rebounds, 37 assists, 23 steals, and 17 blocks.

Stone is shooting 123-240 (51.2%) from the field and 46-59 (77.9%) at the free-throw line.

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