AS MUCH AS we delight in the rising fortunes of the Washington Bullets - after their dismal start this season - we have had our attention diverted by sporting fortunes of another sort. These belong to the basketball team at Friendly High School in Oxon Hill in Prince George's County. The Friendly five endured its 48th straight loss the other evening. The long string, knotted more with crushing defeats than narrow ones, goes back over this just-concluded season, all of last season and part of the one the year before that.

Although what began as ran of hard times has obviously become a marathon, the Friendly team and its coaches are holding up well. That's one reason we hail them. The other has to do with some remarks offered by Bill Gardiner, Friendly's athletic director, who for many years was a nationally known college basketball coach. The 48 losses have "diminished in no way either the spirit at Friendly or the enthusiasm of the players for the game," he said. "We have a fine school, a lively booster club and in two seasons only one boy has quit the team. That's remarkable."

Scholastic basketball this season has produced some of what the old-line sportswriters used to call "powerhouse." T.C. Williams, McKinley and St. John's, among the boys, and Holy Cross, Robinson and Eastern, among the girls, are some of the celebrated winners. They deserve applause and all the noise the cheerlesders' pom poms can rouse.

But we would add a lone cheer for the undaunted players of Friendly as well. One of their games amy be the best remembered of all those played in the area this year. It was on Feb. 11. Leading by one point with the clock showing but a second left, the Friendly boys watched a player from the Crossland team heave a 60-foot desperation shot toward the basket. The buzzer ssounding, it swished in. Friendly lost 60-59.

By that slim margin did Friendly keep its record intact - and its hopes for a lasting niche in th annals of amateur sports. "I think the kids have learned something that we coaches have long believed," says Mr. Gardiner, gamely. "If wins and losses are the only thing we're in business for, then we're in the wrong business." He was speaking for the coaches at Friendly, we assume.