EAST PROVIDENCE — This time three seasons ago, the East Providence High School girls' basketball team was about to embark on one of the program's best-ever winters, the then-youthful Townies …
EAST PROVIDENCE — This time three seasons ago, the East Providence High School girls' basketball team was about to embark on one of the program's best-ever winters, the then-youthful Townies led by a trio of freshmen going undefeated during the regular season and winning a playoff game before falling in the semifinals of the Division II championship tournament.
Though top-seeded EPHS suffered an excruciating upset defeat to fourth-seeded West Warwick in the final four, the future of the program at that moment seemed oh so bright...seemed being the key word.
About to be three seasons on, however, each of those three potential stars and spine of the team have now departed the program and the Townies will also have their third coach in as many seasons.
Long-time area girls' basketball mentor Tammy Drape has been hired as the new leader of the program, which faces a near-rebuild after that magical run in 2021-22.
"It's an opportunity for me that I couldn't pass up. I've seen my niece and nephew (Briana and Anthony Miceli) grow up playing youth sports here. I see how the community comes together. I just always wanted to be a part of EP sports. It's a pretty amazing place if you ask me," said Drape, who resides here in city and who is a teacher at Jenks Middle School in Pawtucket.
She continued, "I don't mind the rebuilding aspect. I've been through it before. At my exit meeting with the kids (at St. Ray's) I told them one thing in life is to have no regrets, and I know if I didn't take this opportunity at EP I would regret it."
Drape's over two decades of experience on the sideline is one of the factors why she was the best fit for the position, according to East Providence School District Director of Athletics Alex Butler. Among his aims with the hire is to quell the recent churn in girls' hoops coaches at the high school. Drape will actually be the sixth head coach of the program, including one with the "interim" tag, in the last eight years.
Butler is well aware of Drape's resumé both on the bench and the court. Their playing careers mirrored each other from high school to the collegiate ranks, the latter where in the mid-1990s each were members of the respective men's and women's hoops teams at Rhode Island College. Butler, himself, coached the EPHS boys' cagers for a decade while Drape was at Tolman and Saints.
"We needed to provide some stability to our girls' basketball program with someone who is experienced and has a track record of building a program to be successful. Tammy fits the profile," Butler said. "I have known her since college and we have stayed in touch over the years. We are excited to have her and I look forward to working with her to build our girls basketball program."
Said Drape of their relationship, "Alex is a class act. I've known him for 30 years. I was in awe of him of as a player and as a coach, so when the opportunity came about, I said I want to go work for Butler."
Drape comes to East Providence directly from an eight-year stint at St. Raphael Academy, where her 2021 team won the Division I state championship to conclude the season truncated at the initial easing of the COVID-19 pandemic. The Saints wound up with an 11-0 record that winter, including a 43-38 overtime defeat of Barrington in the final.
The title proved the apex of her stay at the Pawtucket private school. Drape coached St. Ray's to the postseason in each of her first six years, including a run to the Division II championship game in 2016 when the Saints lost to Moses Brown. But her last two teams failed to reach the playoffs.
"St. Ray's is a phenomenal place. It made me a better coach having been there. It's a small school with great kids, a great atmosphere, a great administration. It was just the right time in my life to move on to something a little bit bigger," said Drape.
Before St. Raphael, Drape was the head coach at her alma mater, which happened to be one of the other Pawtucket-based schools, Tolman. She spent 15 seasons at the helm of the Tigers from 1999-2000 shortly after she graduated RIC, reinvigorating that program a couple of times during her tenure and qualifying for the playoffs on numerous occasions.
Some of Tolman's better teams in that period coincided with a resurgence of the EPHS girls' program. In fact, Drape's Tigers defeated the Townies in the 2010 Division II playoff quarterfinals.
"Everyone who has called to congratulate me has mentioned the facilities, how great they are here and all of the other good things the school is doing," Drape said, referring to the still relatively new and ultra-modern EPHS building that opened in the summer of 2021.
She added, "And I played against Sandy Forand (East Providence superintendent of schools) in high school. She went to St. Ray's and was a phenomenal player. I've seen what she's doing at the high school, what they're going with the CTE (Career and Tech Education), their Pathways program. Again, it's just something I wanted to be a part of."
In stark contrast to her last gig, where she took over a championship-level program at St. Ray's — the Saints reached the D-II final the two years previous to Drape's arrival and won the league title in '14-15 — Drape takes over an East Providence program in need of a significant remodel.
The Townies went just 3-15 in Division I last winter during what proved the one and only season with Tanita Allen as their head coach. One of two D-I league wins for the Saints last winter was a 39-29 defeat of EP. A few weeks later the Townies returned the favor, earning one of their few wins by defeating St. Ray's 59-54 in overtime. East Providence remains in the state's top tier for at least one more season this winter.
Gone from that EPHS team is forward Mya Lambert, the last of the aforementioned three freshmen who sparked the Townies to such heights in '21-22. Lambert, whose father Tshombe "Bay" Lambert was EP's other head coach over the last three years, departed the program for prep school as did her two former classmates — Arianna Ingram and Breena Hannon — who went the same route prior to last winter.
"I know we have a lot of work to do here," Drape added, "but I really believe if we can change the culture a little we'll be able to get it back on track because I know we have kids who want to play and work hard."