TURLOCK -- This was not a rebuilding year for the CSU Stanislaus women's basketball team.
The first requirement of a rebuilding process, whether you're talking about a house or a team, is the existence of a solid foundation.
Since that was not in place, perhaps Saturday night's 72-65 victory over Sonoma State might turn out to be a cornerstone win for the Warriors.
At the very least, notching the first conference win of the season gives the team something on which to grow.
"We're starting to build confidence, physicality and learning how to be scrappy while also finishing the game," said first-year coach Wayman Strickland.
"It's about building a new self-fulfilling prophesy, one in which we finish and are able to be successful at the end of games."
In addition to the win, which boosted Stanislaus to 2-9 overall and 1-5 in the California Collegiate Athletic Association, another excellent sign for the team emerged a second offensive weapon.
Junior post Lauren Godde is one of the league's most dependable players, and she led everybody with 28 points and 11 rebounds.
But down the stretch, as the Seawolves (4-6, 2-4) did their best to deny Godde the ball, the Warriors needed someone else to step up, and guard Brianna Cotton carried Stanislaus down the stretch.
The sophomore from San Jose's Valley Christian High had 15 points, including three straight 3-pointers as Stanislaus outscored Sonoma 14-6 in the final 2 minutes, 40 seconds.
"I got three triple screens, and when the defense was undercutting them it gave me a chance to get open," said Cotton, who finished 4-of-5 from behind the arc.
"I got the hot hand and then my teammates had confidence in me to keep getting me the ball. They kept going through so I kept shooting."
Cotton did not score more than seven points in any of Stanislaus' first five games, but now has reached double figures in four of the last five.
"I really didn't have confidence at the start of the season," Cotton said. "It was hard for me with the new system and all the new players. We kept practicing and as we kept going through things I got some confidence back."
Stanislaus led for most of the game on the strength of its defense, which attempted to trap Sonoma all over the court.
Then, upon gaining possession, the Warriors walked the ball up court, often stopping in the back court. It not only allowed Stanislaus the chance to catch it collective breath on offense, but further dictated the flow of the game.
"It allows us to force the other team to play at a tempo they don't want," Strickland said. "Most teams like to play at a certain tempo, and we like to disrupt their offense by trapping and getting after them. We're a real cerebral team and also real scrappy."
But there still was the matter of pulling out the win, and when Sonoma's Taylor Vigil hit a short jumper with 2:53 left to give her team a 59-58 lead, Stanislaus had the chance to show some bad, here-we-go-again body language.
Instead, the Warriors went out and won the game.
"It's all a process," Strickland said. "The last two years were a struggle for the girls who are still in the program, like Brianna and the Godde sisters. These girls were used to being close in games, but then stumbling and failing.
"It's a process, which makes this a great win for our program. We're building this from right now."
SONOMA 70, STANISLAUS 67
The Seawolves' Patrick Scott answered with two free throws, and added two more following a missed 3-pointer by Clinton Tremelling.
Stanislaus' final chance to tie ended when Marcellus Pullum missed a 3-pointer with eight seconds left, and Sonoma iced the win with two more foul shots.
Marcus Walters led Stanislaus with a career-high 26 points, but the Warriors fell to 4-6, 1-5 CCAA with their fifth straight home loss in conference play. Scott scored 17 for Sonoma, which improved to 5-5, 3-3.