EGG HARBOR TOWNSHIP - The members of the 1991-1993 Egg Harbor Township High School girls basketball team thought their historic achievements may have slipped from the town's collective memory.
But their names - Shea Matlock, Danielle Castaldi, Michele McGowan and Jen MacNeill - still mean something.
The past of EHT girls basketball met the future this week when members of the 1992 and 1993 teams ran a basketball camp for girls in the third to eighth grades.
"We've gotten such a huge response," said McGowan, now Michele Zinckgraf said. "We kind of forgot the attention we got (in the 1990s). But as soon as it got out there that we were running a camp parents were calling and saying, 'I remember you girls.' "
In a steamy Alder School gym Thursday morning, a little more than 50 campers capped a week that began on Monday. They worked on dribbling, shooting and passing drills. MacNeill high-fived campers who excelled at her continuous passing drill.
"The girls are having a great time," said Castaldi, now Danielle Conroy. "It's very encouraging for our first time. We weren't sure how many girls we were going to get."
The EHT girls of the early 1990s were one of the best local high school teams regardless of sport. The Eagles, coached by Sam Botta, won three straight South Jersey Group III titles.
They won the 1992 state Group III title and advanced to the Tournament of Champions final, losing to St. Peter's Prep 51-45. Only one other local team - the 1993 Middle Township boys - has reached a TOC final.
The 1993 Eagles won the Cape-Atlantic League and South Jersey Group III championships but lost in the state Group III final. Matlock finished her career with 2,167 career points and went on to play at the University of Connecticut and Georgia Tech. MacNeill excelled at Drexel University.
Zinckgraf and Conroy came up with the idea for the camp after watching their young daughters play in a town recreation league last winter. The girls were forced to play with boys because they were so few female players.
"Girls that age don't get the ball passed to them," Conroy said. "They don't get anything out of it."
It seems inconceivable that a town as big as Egg Harbor Township could not a field a separate girls league. The 1990s players were especially shocked because they started playing travel basketball together in the fourth grade.
"We couldn't get our brains around it," Zinckgraf said.
So the former teammates decided to do something about it. They started a Facebook page to publicize the camp. They handed out flyers.
The former players started the camp in conjunction with current EHT girls coach Karen Schutz, herself a 1996 EHT graduate. Zinckgraf said Schutz and current EHT players have been instrumental in making the camp a success.
"This is huge," Schutz said. "They're learning the basics here. It's great to have the (1990s) players back. They're great role models for the girls."
Zinckgraf, Conroy, MacNeill and Matlock were on hand Thursday. Former teammates Stephanie DeFeo and Amy Nickles Boyer could not make it this week because of prior commitments.
The campers connected easily with the former players. They had heard stories about the 1990s teams from older people in their families.
"I knew they were good," said 13-year-old Alyssa Reed from Bargaintown. "But now watching them I realize they're better. They teach you an easier way to play. When I get older, I want to be like them."
The camp served as a reunion for the former teammates. Many of them still live in town and they've kept in touch over the years, but there's nothing like being back on the court together.
"It's like 20 years ago," Conroy said. "It's like we never stopped playing."
The showed the campers some of their game films.
"The kids called them 'old-time movies,' " Conroy said with a laugh.
The former players entertained the youngsters with a game of knockout won by MacNeill. How did Matlock, EHT's best shooter back in the day, lose?
"Did you see my first shot?" she said with a laugh. " It was an air ball."
The former players, especially Conroy and Zinckgraf, are committed to the project.
They hope it re-ignites a passion for basketball in the town. Crowds traveled all over the state to watch them play back in the 1990s
"This town followed us all through high school," Conroy said. "Whatever we can give back is great for us. We're in it for the long haul."
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