remembers the bad old days during her freshman and sophomore seasons with the New London (Conn.) girls basketball team
, a time in which she and the Whalers lost 35 of 40 games.
"I remember going home being frustrated and wondering why (we weren't winning) a lot of the time," Childs-Harris said. "We had the talent. I'd just wondered why we weren't up to par.
"We did have the potential to be better than what we were."
Childs-Harris is a senior now, and the bad old days are a thing of the past for her and New London. The Whalers (23-4) will play Morgan (Clinton, Conn.) in Sunday's CIAC Class M final at Mohegan Sun Arena.
View the entire CIAC Class M bracket.
It's the first state championship appearance in New London girls basketball history.
It's the Whalers first winning season since 2005.
It's New London's second season under head coach Kerrianne Dugan, who graduated from Central Connecticut State in 2011, and had never coached at any level of high school previously.
It's a turnaround that's been equal parts fun and remarkable for New London.
"Yeah, it's pretty amazing," Dugan said. "I try not to think about that kind of stuff and stay focused on the now, but when I look back on the season, I'm going to remember it and these girls forever."
Childs-Harris said, "It's crazy, I know. It is. It's hard to believe sometimes that we actually did it."
Winning is expected in other New London sports. The boys basketball program has been one of the state's best and has won nine state titles. The baseball team has six state titles, and the football program has five.
New London hasn't had that kind of success in girls' team sports. The outdoor track team won state titles in 1978 and 1979. That's it for the Whalers' girls teams.
New London girls basketball has had success here and there, but losing had become the norm for several seasons. They didn't win a game during the 2006-07 season, and finished a combined 8-52 in the three seasons before Dugan arrived.
She was hired in June 2012, just a year after graduating from college. Her only prior coaching experience had been as an AAU assistant, but she had experience with winning programs. She helped nearby Waterford High to two state final appearances as a player. She also helped transform Central Connecticut into a more consistent winner.
"I really missed being around basketball," Dugan said. "I knew that my playing days were over, so when I heard about the position, I was interested. I knew what it was like to build a program. At Central, my freshman year, the entire coaching staff (was new). We won four games the whole season. It was a tough season, but it was a rebuilding season. We came back my sophomore year, and we had the biggest turnaround in Division I. We won 18 games and made the NIT."
Childs-Harris said that Dugan brought discipline and placed expectations on the players.
"If you weren't here (at practice) or you're late, you're not just affecting yourself; you're affecting the whole team," Childs-Harris said. "We're going to get on you."
"My coaches weren't too hard on us that we didn't enjoy playing, but they had rules and they had discipline," Dugan said. "Be in class and be on time. Those simple things really started to turn around the program. Those are the same things that I brought here.
"I don't give them room to slack off or not play to their full potential. If they're not working hard or playing their best, they're going to hear from me and they know that. But as intense as I can be, as much as I expect of them, we probably have just as many laughs. Them laughing at me, or someone laughing at someone else. We have a lot of fun. We're like a little family."
New London finished 10-10 during the 2012-13 season, its first under Dugan.
"As soon as you start winning games, you're whole attitude changes," Childs-Harris said. "Of course it takes practice and stuff like that, but once you start winning games and see the results, that's when it kind of hits you. Things are changing."
New London won the Eastern Connecticut Conference Medium Division title this winter and played for the conference title, falling to perennial state Class LL power Norwich Free Academy. It also knocked off top-seeded Holy Cross in the Class M semifinals, 44-32.
Of New London's four losses this season, two are to NFA and two are to CIAC Class L finalist Hartford Weaver.
Junior Deanna McCarvell
has averaged a team-high 12.3 points while Childs-Harris has averaged 11.4 points, 5.6 rebounds, four assists and 2.3 steals.
The Whalers have also gotten a boost from sophomore Charee Osborne
(10.8 ppg, 11.6 rpg) and from freshmen India Pagan
(10.4 ppg, 9 rpg), and Jada Lucas
(9.9 ppg, 2.8 spg).
"I couldn't ask for any other season, especially with the team that I have," Childs-Harris said. "This is just an amazing season for me and my team."Ned Griffen has covered high school, college and professional sports in the Northeast since 1992. A 2003 New England Associated Press News Executives award winner, he may be reached at
or follow him @MetalNED