'Old guys can still play' as Bykota seniors take on Loyola Blakefield students in hoops

It was a game that will be retold at the Bykota Senior Center in Towson.

The center's basketball team led Loyola Blakefield's students in age and prowess in a game that was tied 32-32 at the end of 50 minutes of play.

Bykota's seniors clinched the win in overtime in the friendly competition between the center's over-60 seniors and the Towson preparatory school's 12- to 16-year-old boys.

Wednesday's game was part of the Baltimore County Department on Aging's Reimagine Aging initiative.

"Age is just a number, whether it's basketball or whatever," Department of Aging communications manager Ethel Rasmussem said. "It's a mindset and we're asking people to reimagine that. It's eye-opening for both sides to see how they can work together and how they can have fun together."

About 150 people gathered in the Loyola Blakefield gymnasium to take on that challenge, including Bykota volunteers Shirley Neale, Sally Childers and Ellen Meyer.

Clad in Bykota green shirts, leis and ribbon, the women boarded a bus from the center to cheer on their team. Once the game started, they could be heard cheering anytime Bykota scored or stole a ball.

"We're very fond of our team," Childers said after Bykota scored their first points. The group typically plays half-court games at Bykota's court about three times a week, she said, and recently returned from a trip to the National Senior Olympics in Birmingham, Ala.

Meyer, who said she had experience coaching basketball at her Michigan high school years ago, added more praise.

"To see the guys in their 60s and above is amazing," Meyer said. "They know all the fundamentals, how to steal and how to dribble. It keeps them on their toes."

Fifteen-year-old Ethan O'Reilly said he practiced with friends for a week leading up to the game but that he did not have prior experience playing on a team.

"It's a good opportunity for them to play a real game and have some fun," the Loyola Blakefield sophomore said.

Twelve-year-old Henry Breit said he volunteered to be the team's youngest player when he heard Loyola's roster of sophomores was light.

The senior team of about 30 players included men ages 62 to 88, Bykota coach Tom Murtaugh said.

Bykota was up one point before halftime, but after some quick passes, Henry scored a corner three, giving Loyola's Dons a 13-12 lead at halftime.

Spectators joined The Oriole Bird mascot in a halftime ballroom dancing lesson, but it was back to business quickly after the break.

Loyola Blakefield's Dons kept their lead for most of the second half.

With five minutes to go, Bykota called a time out, switched up their lineup and scored two points. Loyola Blakefield scored again, and the game was tied 32-32 as the clock ran out in regular play.

After some discussion, referees added three minutes to the clock. With minutes to go, the Bykota seniors scored two points for bragging rights.

"When it got down to it we wanted to win," Murtaugh, 82, said. "We wanted to show that old guys can still play."

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