TURLOCK — There's a fine line that allows a team to compete at close to its potential and at the same time be non-competitive, and the CSU-Stanislaus women's basketball team has found it.
Saturday's 61-52 loss to Cal State San Bernardino was the 12th in a row for the Warriors, and the first defeat in that streak not to come by a double-digit margin.
At 2-21 overall and 1-17 in conference play, the team can win its final four games and still finish with the program's worst record since committing to the Division II scholarship level.
Do they compete? Yes, they play hard and get what they can from a roster filled with young players not yet up to the challenge of the California Collegiate Athletic Association.
"This is athletics, so it's really only fun when you win," said first-year head coach Wayman Strickland. "That's just the truth. It sucks to lose. The girls are playing their butts off, and this is a very bright and intuitive group."
Of all the Warriors, Devin Brown would have the best reason to slink off the court after yet another loss. The guard from Tracy is the lone senior on the roster, which means her college career is over in two weeks.
But against the Coyotes (10-12, 8-10) Brown not only led Stanislaus with 16 points, but also led by example, playing as if a postseason berth were hanging on every possession.
"I think everybody works hard on this team," Brown said. "We're very young and we're not the tallest team. I try to stay positive for them and tell them to stay the same because we're not having the best season."
As has been the case for so many games in this streak and during this season, the Warriors stayed close through most of the first half.
Despite playing the opening 20 minutes without best player Lauren Godde, sitting because of what Strickland termed a "team situation," Stanislaus ran out to an early 18-10 lead behind Brown's nine points.
Then, depth happened. San Bernardino closed the first half on a 14-5 run to take a 33-29 halftime lead, then opened the second half on a 7-1 run to take its first double-digit lead at 40-30.
The Warriors, even with Godde back in the game, didn't have the depth and the legs to make a run, even if the spirit and willingness was there.
Erin Godde had 10 points and 13 rebounds, while Eliza Matley contributed 10 points in 16 minutes off the bench.
STANISLAUS 82, SAN BERNARDINO 61 Chalk this one up to the basketball truth that some teams just match up well against others. That's how best to explain that the Coyotes, the CCAA's No. 2 team at 15-6 overall, 13-5 CCAA has been blown out twice this season by the Warriors (9-13, 6-12.)
Stanislaus won 76-60 at San Bernardino on Jan. 11, when the Coyotes were ranked No. 11 in the nation. They've since lost their national ranking, but the Warriors certainly haven't lost their touch while winning back-to-back home games for the first time this season.
"We're similar teams with some pretty good perimeter athletes," said Stanislaus coach Larry Reynolds. "We do match up well against them. San Bernardino also was on the second night of a road trip, and it's tough to play a game and drive down from Chico. If you have any aches and pains, they'll hurt a little more on that trip."
Stanislaus connected on 12 of 23 3-pointers in Friday's 72-57 victory over UC San Diego, and followed that up by hitting eight of 17 from behind the arc against the Coyotes.
The Warriors led wire-to-wire, needing barely five minutes to open up their first double-digit lead at 20-10 as Marcus Walters scored seven of his 13 points in the opening five minutes. Wes Bartole led Stanislaus with 15 points and 12 rebounds, and Taylor Bell added 14.
Even with the weekend sweep the Warriors remain a long shot to make the top eight in the CCAA, which would get them a conference playoff berth. They need to make up two games in the standings on either UC San Diego or Sonoma State.
Stanislaus has four regular-season games remaining.