Wins have been hard to come by this winter for the New Milford High School girls' basketball team.

Character and persistence, on the other hand, were in rich supply.

Coach Bill Kersten's Green Wave won't be playing the CIAC's state class `LL' tournament, but it hasn't been for lack of effort.The NMHS girls saw their chance for qualification go by the boards Monday with a 47-43 loss to Immaculate in Danbury.

The defeat dropped the Green Wave to 6-13, two wins shy of the necessary eight to make the tournament with only Wednesday's game vs. Kolbe Cathedral left on the slate. New Milford recently outplayed Weston, 30-26; Bethel, 41-27; and Stratford, 61-41, to temporarily stay alive in its tournament quest.

However, a 48-34 setback last Friday to South-West Conference power Joel Barlow and Monday's loss in Danbury buried the girls' hopes.

"Many teams would have given up on their year when they were 3-11," recounted coach Kersten.

"Instead, this group battled to three straight wins, and gave themselves an opportunity to play in the post season."

The Green Wave seemingly has developed in virtually every area of basketball since last season, cutting down on turnovers, controlling the tempo of games while runing an offense. All the while, the girls have played strong defense, usually holding opponents below their season norms.

Kelsey Heaton has been the team's offensive catalyst, especially since fellow guard Juliana Fusco suffered a broken leg in late January.

Jessica Noteware, Jane Thompson and Morgan Gallagher have extended rivals' defenses with their outside shooting touch.

Erin Kersten has led the team in rebounding while serving as the defensive stopper on opponents' top scorer.

Tara Larkin and Ally LaPorte have offered excellent `D,' especially in crunch time.

"Our team and program have made great strides this season," concluded coach Kersten, "and as the season winds down, we have been very happy to still be playing for a berth in the state tournament."

As the Green Wave headed into Wednesday's finale vs. Kolbe, the last NMHS game for Kelsey Heaton, coach Kersten still expected a strong effort from his squad.

"We'll play for the seniors, our program, and pride," he remarked.

Norm Cummings