SLIPPERY ROCK — Joy Brewer is a 16-year basketball veteran — who started playing at age 55.
Now 71, the Zelienople resident continues to practice with the Senior Olympics of Western Pa. women's organization at the Butler Cubs Hall every Saturday morning.
She just doesn't have a team to play for locally anymore.
“There's nobody my age playing anymore around here,” Brewer said. “We used to have a full team in Butler, but women get older, drop out ... They just don't do it anymore.”
Carol McCollough, 75, of Butler, has the same problem. She founded the Senior Olympics of Western Pa. group 21 years ago and has played basketball and volleyball annually for the organization.
The annual Rivalry at the Rock — a 3-on-3 senior women's basketball tournament — took place April 27 at Slippery Rock University's Aebersold Recreation Center.
There were 16 teams and 94 athletes on hand for the event McCollough started 14 years ago. She helped work the registration area, but did not play.
“There was no team for me to play for,” she said. “We need more older women in our organization.”
Brewer did play in the event — for the 70 and older NOVA United Rebounders out of Virginia.
“I've played in tournaments with them before,” Brewer said. “We got to know each other from playing against each other at events for a lot of years.
“Once you've been doing this for a while ... We befriend each other and find each other. If you want to keep playing, you find a team that has your age group, meet up with them and play, no matter where they're from.”
That theory held true for the Butler County Cagers' 65 and over team in the Rivalry at the Rock event. None of the seven players on that squad were from Butler County.
They hailed from Syracuse, other parts of New York, Delaware and other regions in Pennsylvania.
“I've been playing since 2002,” Sue Faller said. “We all used to play for teams closer to home, until all of our teams dissolved.
“Now we get together ourselves, without ever practicing as a team, show up at tournaments and just play.”
They defeated the NOVA United Gold Meddlers 65 and over team, 58-12. The losing team had only five players.
“We've won national championships at the Senior Games in Cleveland and Pittsburgh,” Faller said. “All of us just enjoy playing basketball.”
“We've heard some grumblings,” team organizer Nancy Harvey said, chuckling. “Some people call us an all-star team.”
Teams were on hand representing Michigan, Delaware, New York, Maryland, New Jersey, Virginia, Connecticut and Pennsylvania.
This year's National Senior Games will be June 14-25 in Albuquerque, N.M.
“This event is a good warm-up for that,” McCollough said.
But these women play basketball, volleyball and other sports for much more than the competition.
“For me, it's been all about staying active,” Brewer said. “I'm a breast cancer survivor from 2004. I've had no issues since. I truly believe staying physically active has had something to do with that.
“Besides basketball, I play pickle ball, I swim ... My doctor says I need a knee replacement, but advises me to wait a while before having it done since I'm playing sports.”
Dr. Robertha Abney's Introduction to Sports Management class organizes and runs the Rivalry at The Rock. Students Matyra Evans and Kaitlin Warner, both sophomores, served as co-chairs of the event.
“This gives the students an opportunity to see what organizing and running a sporting event is all about,” Dr. Abney said. “It's a wonderful opportunity for them to see how much is involved with something like this.
“They also see these women out here playing hard, fulfilling potential ... That sends a positive message as well.”
Teams played anywhere from three to five games each Saturday. A game consisted of two 15-minute halves and games were played at half-court.
“I didn't know what to expect,” Warner said of the games themselves. “When I saw how competitive these ladies were, diving after balls on the floor and all ... I loved it.”
“We put in a lot of hours getting this ready,” she said. “It's rewarding to see the players enjoying the event. I played basketball in high school. I hope I can still play when I'm their age.”