NEW MILFORD — Returning all five starters is a rare luxury for a high school basketball coach. Add in a transfer that would likely start for any team in the state and proceeded to set a school record in her first game, all the signs for a quick turnaround can quickly be put in place.
The New Milford girls basketball team has jumped out to a surprising 5-1 start this season, already matching its win total for the last two years combined.
The Green Wave went 5-35 the previous two seasons.
“It’s the chemistry,” said senior Aunalise Anderson, who enters her third season starting at point guard. “That’s a big part of it, we’ve played together for three years. We’ve lost together, won a couple of games together and now we’re finally cohesive.”
The key addition was junior Gillian Boss, who spent three years of her early life in New Milford before a family move to Florida, where she spent the last five years. A lifelong soccer player who didn’t pick up a basketball until late in middle school, Boss not only instantly learned up the game, she thrived.
Her family moved home just in time for the winter season. The bigger adjustment — ask any high schooler — was off the court. The lone teammate Boss knew before this season was Mackenzie Brady; the two played soccer together at the youth level.
“I was pretty stressed whether or not I was going to fit in with everyone, but now that I’m here I like it better,” Boss said. “I was pretty nervous; I didn’t go to bed a few nights. But my friends (in Florida) said I’d be fine and I was.”
Boss was named second-team All-County last season — by the St. Augustine Record — for Ponte Vedra High School, a town almost exactly the same population as New Milford along the east coast of Florida. She averaged 11.5 points, six rebounds and 2.9 assists per game, and shot 56 percent from the field.
Lacing up the shoes for the first time in New Milford colors, Boss poured in 40 points in the Green Wave’s 60-48 win over Bunnell Dec. 11. That broke a school record of 37 set by New Milford Hall of Famer Laura Doria.
Through six games, Boss is averaging 19.3 points per game.
Talk about making a first impression.
“The fact that she can score has put the whole team at ease and everyone’s found their role,” Green Wave coach Bill Kersten said. “Gillian can shoot and for only playing three years she’s played a lot; she has a great nose for the basketball.”
Boss is joined by seniors Anderson, Taylor Kersten, Abbi Debes and Jessica Horkan. Sophomore Nicole Vivian has added a scoring punch, too. Anderson averages 4.5 assists per game.
Taylor is the youngest of three to play for Bill Kersten; sisters Alexis graduated in 2014 while Erin did in 2012.
The Green Wave have yet to play any of the top teams in the SWC, so its status as contenders is unknown. What is though is the school’s conference and state playoff hopes are alive and well, and hopes of a first playoff win since 2014 is an achievable goal.
“We’re working on our defense,” Anderson said. “We know they’re going to push so we’re going to have to push back 10 times harder to win. We’re excited to see how we do against those teams because I know they’re not expecting a lot from us. Hopefully we surprise them.”
Learning how to win remains the top priority; New Milford wasted a double-digit advantage in its lone loss of the season, a 57-51 decision to Bristol Eastern over the holidays. The Green Wave — who host Masuk Saturday — have won the last three games by double digits.
“I think the wins that we’ve gotten is helping build confidence,” Taylor Kersten said. “So when we go into those big games we know we can compete with those teams.”