When Loudoun Valley High School Coach Carmel Keilty reflects upon her girls basketball team's season, she doesn't talk about how her players refused to give up in a stirring, 61-57 victory over Liberty to clinch a berth in the Group AA Region II tournament.

She also doesn't utter a word about how the Vikings still agonize over a 47-45 loss in the tournament quarterfinals Tuesday, when Charlotteville's Kandi Merrick sank a last-second layup that ended their season.

To Keilty, it doesn't matter how many games her team won, or how many--and how--they lost.

"There are some things that are a lot more important than the scoreboard," said Keilty, whose 11th year at Loudoun Valley ended at 18-6. "What this team accomplished off the court was just tremendous. We had a team GPA of 3.7, and our players are involved in a lot of activities in school. They're good role models."

And pretty good basketball players, too. A team that could still be playing if it wasn't for a layup as time expired.

"The way it ended was just so frustrating, we can't believe we let [Merrick] dribble though our entire team for a layup," said junior forward Valerie Murphy, who averaged a team-high 12.1 points per game, grabbed a school-record 239 rebounds and made the Northwestern District's first team. "It was depressing how it ended, but we definitely had a good season. We always played as hard as we could and never gave up."

That's good enough for Keilty. Though the Vikings play in one of the state's most competitive districts, she said she has the same goal each year. And you won't find the word "winning" in it.

"All I ask from Day One is that each time we step on the court, we improve as a team," said Keilty, whose team did just that, bettering its 1998 record (14-10) by four games. "That's all I ask for. There are a lot of teams out there with goals of winning the district tournament and getting to states--and there's nothing wrong with that--but that's not our goal. Any games we win are icing."

Loudoun Valley placed third in the district in the regular season but upset Liberty in the district tournament before losing to two-time defending champion Loudoun County in the final. The team had only two seniors: Michelle McLaughlin and Lindsey Cash.

"We just tried to play the best we could and never give up this year," said junior guard Holly Everhart, who led the team with 39 assists and 61 steals. "That's all Coach Keilty asks us to do, and it makes it easier to go out there and play well. And we win."