For New London girls, this could be the start of something big
Mohegan — There were 19 seconds remaining in Sunday's Class M title game when New London sophomore Charee Osborne secured a defensive rebound for her team, about to win its first state championship in program history.
And promptly threw the basketball out of bounds into the scorer's table.
"I can tell the difference between her calm and her crazy," New London senior Lexus Childs-Harris said. "I had to yell at her. Not yell. But just about a few things."
That was the dynamic of things Sunday afternoon at Mohegan Sun Arena.
Fifth-seeded New London High School (24-4) won the Class M girls' basketball state championship over No. 6 Morgan 57-52.
The Whalers led by 17, only to see the lead whittled to one in the fourth quarter.
But there was Osborne, the 5-foot-10 forward for whom the New London fans undertook an "MVP" chant late in the game. Osborne finished with 16 points on 6-for-7 shooting, with 11 rebounds and two blocked shots, part of a frontcourt dominance Morgan coach Joe Grippo would later admit his team could not match.
Osborne was one of four freshmen, sophomores and juniors in the starting lineup, who very well have a chance to win another one of these one day - freshmen, sophomores and juniors who have been brought up in a winning program.
And there was Childs-Harris, whose career spanned a noteworthy losing streak before the arrival of coach Kerrianne Dugan in 2013, and before Childs-Harris had a chance to serve as a role model for these young players, bringing them all together.
Dugan was asked if, perhaps since the team was so green, the players didn't feel as much pressure to win.
"We've got to win," Dugan responded, long after the celebration. "I think the girls look up to Lexus so much. They have that respect for her. She deserves it."
There's also the matter of it being the first title in New London girls' basketball history.
There's the matter of Dugan having lost this game twice as an all-state player at Waterford High School and always carrying a pit in her stomach because of it.
"I'm so happy for these girls. They've filled that for me and they don't even know it," Dugan said.
But could history repeat itself?
Osborne and 6-2 freshman center India Pagan gave a postseason performance that included 32 rebounds in a state semifinal win over top-seeded Holy Cross and 24 more in the final against Morgan. Pagan added seven blocked shots, as the two were the talk of the day.
Meanwhile, freshman guard Jada Lucas had 12 points, two assists, a steal and only one turnover, while making 7 of 10 free throws. Junior Deanna McCarvell hit a pair of 3-pointers to add 10 points, four rebounds, two assists and two steals.
Osborne achieved that success with only having played a handful of games last year because of a knee injury.
"India will say, 'Charee, I got here. I got here. You go out.' We work as teammates," Osborne said. "We just want to have a team win. We encourage each other. We just pick it up. We're all like a big family."
"They get to a point they play like varsity players," said Childs-Harris, who leaves the program along with seniors Benisha Obas and Tamia DeBarros Cannon. "Once you put on a varsity uniform, you're a varsity player."
Childs-Harris said that part of what was special Sunday is arriving at New London never expecting such a coronation.
Now, the underclassmen have something to build on.
Said Dugan: "We'll see how things play out next season. ... One's not enough."
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