By DAVE O’SULLIVAN

Staff Writer

EGG HARBOR TOWNSHIP — Egg Harbor Township High’s girls basketball team beat visiting Atlantic Institute of Technology, 51-35, on Friday night in a game that will likely be forgotten in short order, just another late January game in the middle of the season amidst a string of games leading up to the postseason in February.

There were a memorable few seconds at the start of the game, however, for one senior. EHT’s Amelia Zinckgraf was playing in a college showcase tournament last summer, trying to get recruited, when she blew out her knee. An ACL and MCL tear. Her senior year in both basketball and lacrosse gone in an instant.

But because of an agreement between Eagles coach Adam Swift and ACIT coach Jackie Siscone — a 1,000-point scorer during her high school days at Hammonton High — Zinckgraf suited up for the first and only time during her senior year. That’s what Senior Night is all about.

Amelia Zinckgraf, a senior who tore the ACL in her right knee last summer, suited up to score one last basket for Egg Harbor Township on Friday night. (South Jersey Glory Days photo/Sully)

EHT, in a preplanned arrangement, won the tipoff and the ball was passed to Zinckgraf, who stood under the basket and banked in what could be called a ceremonial shot to score the first two points of the game. She’ll go down in the books as having played during her senior year when for most of the past five months she figured she’d never don the black-and-white uniform ever again.

“That’s a credit to ACIT, they allowed us to make this happen for Amelia,” Swift said. “Which is awesome, and it says a lot about their program and what they are doing because ultimately it is about the kids and their experience playing high school basketball.”

“It was definitely not the way I dreamed up (my Senior Night), but it was good,” Zinckgraf said. “It made me feel involved and thought of. It was emotional. I was stressing about the shot. It was so stressful even though it was a layup.

“But that made me feel really good. My teammates have been doing a lot to keep me excited about this season.”

“That was amazing. I appreciate ACIT doing that for her,” added fellow senior Lindsay Dodd. “We all were excited to see her score.”

Following Zinckgraf’s ceremonial final basket of her career, EHT allowed Atlantic Tech to go down and score a layup, thus tying the game, 2-2, and allowing action to really begin after a timeout was called and Zinckgraf was able to walk off the floor one last time.

Once play resumed, it was all EHT (10-9, 7-3 Cape-Atlantic League American), and that was in no small part due to the red-hot shooting of sophomore point guard Lyla Brown. Brown nailed five 3-pointers in the first half as the Eagles sprinted to a 29-13 lead by halftime. Atlantic Tech (2-14, 0-10 CAL American) got within 14 points, 31-17, when Alani White found Brianna Casiano in transition, but EHT’s lead swelled to 20 points, 37-17, later in the third quarter when Ava Kraybill scored on a jumper and then a layup in transition. Atlantic Tech outscored EHT 16-7 in the final quarter, but it wasn’t nearly enough as the Eagles had built up a 44-19 lead at one point.

Sophomore point guard Lyla Brown had one of the best games of her career at EHT, scoring 20 points, including knocking down six 3-pointers. (South Jersey Glory Days photo/Sully)

“Coming out and getting a win anytime you are struggling is helpful. We’ve been playing pretty well lately, but our schedule is significantly more challenging this year than it has been. So just getting that taste of winning and seeing success, we’re hoping we can take off from that. The girls definitely came out and were more comfortable and confident, and it’s always great to get a win on Senior Night,” Swift said. “It was a great performance by Lyla. That’s the best I’ve had a girl shoot it in the four years I’ve been coaching here. And we have a bunch of scorers, and every game it can be a different player. Today was her game. There was one point where I was running a play for forward Averie Harding and she turned to me and said, ‘let’s run the other play where I screen for Lyla.’ And I was thinking, ‘that’s what good teams do.’ That kind of moment was good to see.”

“We’ve had a tough couple of weeks so we really wanted to come out strong. We’ve been practicing really hard,” said Dodd, who had five assists and four steals. “We worked on a lot of teamwork, and our coach said (after the game) that he liked how we shared the ball. We just wanted to work as a team. Lyla Brown had a great night shooting the ball, and that’s what we needed. That definitely brings up the confidence in everybody.”

Brown finished with a game-high 20 points, including six 3-pointers, and Kraybill added 13 points and four assists for the Eagles. White and Zion Stewart each scored nine points to lead the RedHawks.

The win was big for the Eagles, who have gone just 2-4 in their last six games, including a 66-51 loss to Notre Dame on Saturday. The schedule doesn’t get any easier next week as EHT hosts Atlantic City on Tuesday then travels to Holy Spirit on Thursday.

“It’s a different situation this year with playing so many games in such a condensed time, and the CAL is such a competitive league in general. So getting wins when you can is important, and you also want to make sure you’re building toward something,” Swift said. “We’ve played some tough teams like Sterling, Atlantic City and Holy Spirit — we’ve played a schedule that features a ton of really good teams, and we’re right there, I think.”

What’s Next: EHT hosts Atlantic City on Tuesday at 5:30 p.m. Atlantic Tech hosts Atlantic Christian on Monday, time TBD.

Contact Dave O’Sullivan: sullyglorydays@gmail.com; on Twitter @GDsullysays