The St. John Paul II girls basketball team -- under the direction of newcomer coach Pam Drayton -- earned a post-season spot this week with a win over Cape Cod Academy.

“I didn’t know what kind of team I was going to get,” said Drayton. “I just find these girls to be so coachable and so willing to do whatever I tell them.”

Having previously coached on the JV level as she moved about from place to place with her career-military husband and four children, the West Coast native played college basketball at the University of New Hampshire.

“I’ve coached in California, Guam, and Arizona before the kids were born,” she said of her three sons (ages 12, 10, and 7) and five-year old daughter, quipping, “One more and I get my own team.”

However, right now she’s pretty proud of her own team.

“We’re young and in a rebuilding year, but I didn’t realize how young and rebuilding we were,” Drayton said. “But they’re doing great and, with their attitudes, they never get defeated. They always make lemonade out of lemons.”

Veteran senior Katie Wojciechowski and junior Victoria Butler are the team co-captains and have provided inspiration throughout the season.

“We were down in one game and (at halftime) Katie said in the locker room, ‘If we lose this game, we may not be able to make the playoffs, and I’ve never not made it to playoffs so we have to win this game,’” Drayton recalled. “It really motivated the rest of the girls. They knew what they needed to do. It’s just part of the tradition here. She’s got a great basketball mind.”

Meanwhile, Drayton noted that Butler “is a really good teacher out there and works hard, particularly on defense." The coach added that Butler and Wojciechowski “work very well defensively.”

Rounding out the typical starting five are junior Emily Bengtson, sophomore Melissa Van Cott, and sophomore Cait Mehl.

“Melissa and Cait are quiet leaders and as the season has gone on they have grown and contributed,” Drayton said, adding that Bengtson is frequently among the team’s dependable leading scorers.

The remaining members of the team have all contributed to the success of the team and can be called upon at any time.

Seniors Lila Barker and Madi Doyle; junior Maddie Wojciechowski; sophomore Marie Carney; and freshmen Sarah LoPiccolo, Ashleigh Reen, and Ashlyn Enright can all be found in the mix.

“If we’re up against a really tough team, the older kids will be cheered on by the younger kids,” said Drayton. “Or if we’re beating teams by 30 and we put the bench in, (the starters) are always cheering on the younger kids.”

The squad began the season with a three-game winning streak; they then dropped a couple before putting up two more mid-season, three-game winning spurts.

“A lot of these (early wins) have come due to our schedule,” Drayton said. “I didn’t know many of the teams prior to coming here and haven’t had a lot of time to scout. I feel like we’ve played rather consistently.”

While Drayton admits that the team is at a bit of a disadvantage practicing in the St. Francis Xavier Elementary School gym, which has only two baskets, she does her best to maximize the time the squad is together.

“We have to cram a lot of learning time into a short time, but the girls have been great and I couldn’t have asked for a better group,” she said.

She has enjoyed her stay to this point at St. John Paul II but realizes that her military lifestyle frequently has the family of six transitioning.

“One of the difficult things about being in the military is you’re constantly on the move,” she said.

In earning the squad’s tenth win this week over Cape Cod Academy, the Lions avenged an early-season loss to their local foes.

“We match up pretty well with them,” said Drayton. “The first time against them we shot poorly from the line, so we were glad to improve.”

Contact Mike Richard at mikerichard0725@gmail.com.