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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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Makana Stone, here celebrating with mom Eileen, filled up the stat sheet Friday as Whitman College cruised to a big win. (Photo by JohnsPhotos.net)

Double-doubles are nice, but triple-doubles are even sweeter.

Though she didn’t quite make it all the way to Russell Westbrook territory Friday, Coupeville grad Makana Stone came dangerously close.

Tossing in 10 points, hauling down a game-high 14 rebounds and dealing out a collegiate career-best seven assists, the former Wolf sparked Whitman College women’s basketball back to its winning ways.

Bouncing back from a rare loss six days ago, the Blues shellacked host Willamette University (my mom’s alma mater) 82-59 in Salem, OR.

The blowout win lifts Whitman to 8-1 in Northwest Conference play, 14-4 overall.

It also keeps them tied with George Fox (8-1, 15-3) atop the nine-team league, with seven games left on the regular season schedule.

One of those bouts arrives Saturday, when the Blues head to Forest Grove, OR to wrap up a two-game road trip with a game against Pacific University (1-8, 7-11).

After that, they return to Walla Walla for four straight home games, including a royal rumble Feb. 8 with George Fox.

Friday night’s contest was Stone’s 75th college game, and she dominated as she has done in almost every game during her junior season.

Her double-double was her fifth in the last six games, and ninth on the season.

Stone’s 14 rebounds were double what any other player, on either team, snagged, and helped Whitman control the boards to a 42-29 tune.

Sparked by second-chance buckets galore, the Blues jumped out to a 23-15 lead after one quarter, before stretching the margin out to 47-25 by the halftime break.

After that, Whitman cruised in for the win, with four different players scoring in double figures.

Maegan Martin popped for a game-high 19, while Mady Burdett banked in 14 and Taylor Chambers ruffled the nets for 12.

On the season, Stone is sitting with 280 points, 165 rebounds, 34 assists, 22 steals, and 17 blocks.

She’s shooting 117-229 from the field and 45-57 at the free-throw line.

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Coupeville’s Makana Stone dropped in a team-high 14 points Saturday, but Whitman College had a seven-game winning streak snapped. (Photo by JohnsPhotos.net)

A dangerous weekend turned deadly at the end.

Haunted by foul trouble, the Whitman College women’s basketball team watched a big one slip away Saturday, falling 75-67 to visiting University of Puget Sound.

The game, which was a one-point affair with less than 90 seconds to play, hinged on free throws, and frequent foul calls, at the end.

Using a 9-2 surge to close the game, with a brutally-effective three-ball and then six straight charity shots, the Loggers threw the Northwest Conference standings into disarray with eight games left on the schedule.

With the loss, Whitman falls to 7-1 in league play, 13-4 overall and slips back into a first-place tie with George Fox (7-1, 14-3).

Technically, the Blues still have a slight edge, as they won the first of two games against George Fox. The rematch is Feb. 8 in Walla Walla.

Whitman gets a second crack at UPS, which sits a game off the lead at 6-2, 13-3, a week later on Feb. 15.

After facing two of the top four teams in the league this weekend — they drilled Pacific Lutheran Friday — the Blues have a softer schedule awaiting them.

Whitman’s next four games, the ones prior to the showdown with George Fox, pit them solely against teams in the bottom half of the league.

Which makes Saturday’s loss to UPS even tougher, as a win would have kept the Blues, who had a seven-game winning streak, alone and untouched at the top of the league.

Instead, they got roughed up two times against the Loggers, unable to stop the one-two duo of Jamie Lange and Elizabeth Prewitt, who went for 27 and 25 points, respectively.

Coupeville grad Makana Stone did what she could to fire back, popping for a team-high 14 points on 7-11 shooting, but both she and front-court mate Maegan Martin were fouled out of the game by fairly one-sided reffing.

Puget Sound finished the game with no player having more than two fouls to their credit, while Whitman lost their interior stars, and had several other players with at least three fouls each.

Still, the game was close almost from the opening tip to the final buzzer.

Knotted at 19-19 after one quarter, the teams swapped two-point leads at the next two breaks. UPS went to the half up 37-35, before Whitman jumped back in front 55-53 after three quarters.

The Blues final lead, at 59-57, came when Taylor Chambers slashed to the hoop for a layup with a hair over eight minutes to play.

While Lange powered her way through the Blues defense for her own personal 6-0 run after that, Whitman stayed close, and was down just 66-65 in the late moments.

Prewitt was a savage, however, drilling a game-busting three-ball with 1:24 on the clock.

After that, it was all free throws for UPS, as the Loggers closed by hitting six straight at the line.

Given far more opportunities at the charity stripe, Puget Sound hit 14-19 on freebies, while Whitman could only scrape out four tries, nailing three of them.

UPS also out-shot the Blues from the floor, sinking 50.9% of its shots to 43.1% from the home team.

Before she fouled out, Stone added three rebounds, two assists and a steal to her 14 points.

On the season, the junior has 270 points, 151 rebounds, 27 assists, 21 steals, and 17 blocks. She’s shooting 113-217 from the floor and 43-55 at the line.

Stone, who was playing in the 74th game of her collegiate career, passed a personal milestone, crossing the 800-point barrier with her second bucket of the night.

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