NEWARK – Saturday’s annual Blue-Gold boys and girls basketball games offered a chance for the best senior players in the state to showcase their skills and have fun with teammates who may have been opponents over the previous four years.
For athletes like Wilmington Charter’s Katie Woodacre, Jaylin Ortiz of Delcastle and Indian River’s Isaiah Bratton, this was the first and only chance of their high school careers to get the Bob Carpenter Center experience.
“It’s an honor and something to remember,” said Bratton, who helped the Gold squad stage a furious fourth-quarter rally to edge the Blue team 92-91. “Everybody doesn’t get a chance to do this, so you have to remember that and keep on going.”
“It was a lot of fun to play here because I’ve never had the opportunity before,” said Woodacre, who along with A.I. du Pont’s Al’Kirah Wilson scored eight points to push the Blue girls past the Gold 66-54 in the day’s first game. “Being able to show skills and talent with my teammates was great.”
For Ortiz, the leader of a young Delcastle team that won 12 games and made the state tournament for the first time in three seasons, she wanted to make the most of her Blue-Gold experience.
“I’ve never set foot on this floor so it really is an honor,” said Ortiz, who scored seven points on the afternoon. “If you don’t make it to the championship as a senior, you want to play in the Blue-Gold game. “I was really nervous, but I did get a feel for the game fast and it was great to play for Best Buddies today.”
While this was the last basketball game for a handful of players, this won’t be the last Blue-Gold game for Milford standout Brion Murray. Murray, who was a key star on both of sides of the ball for Milford’s state tournament football team this fall, will also play in the football version of Blue-Gold in June.
On the basketball court, Murray also helped Milford to the second round of the state tournament and scored his 1,000th career point in a game against Seaford last month.
“It really is a blessing to have this experience,” Murray said. “I get to do this again in the summer and meet a whole new set of friends, so it’s really cool.”
Murray and Bratton helped spark the Gold to a 28-19 advantage in the fourth quarter, turning an eight-point deficit into a one-point win and bragging rights for kids below the canal.
“Downstate gets overlooked at lot, so it was good to get some recognition and show everyone up top that we can play too,” Murray explained.
“That shows them that we’re all equal,” Bratton said. “This is something I can tell my family about. Just making great memories.”
For Woodacre and Ortiz, ending their high school careers on a high note at the Bob will likely be a lasting memory for them as well.
“It’s always a sad time when it’s the end of something,” Woodacre said, “but being able to end on such a good note for a good cause like Best Buddies is really nice.”
“This is amazing,” Ortiz said. “To play my last high school game here was really fun.”