DECATUR — Cayden Brilley and Caleb Womack had few, if any, common ties for a friendship — until they got to know each other.
They hadn't met before a happenstance encounter Dec. 17 at the Decatur Indoor Sports Center for the day of Special Olympics basketball put on by the Decatur Dream Catchers, organized by Bill and Paula Boys.
Brilley, a senior sharpshooter for the St. Teresa boys basketball team, was a volunteer referee.
Womack, a sophomore at Monticello, played for the Monticello Golden Eagles.
It didn't take long before the two cut it up on the court, talking like old friends who had a lifetime of catching up to do.
What exactly did the two talk about?
“Oh, video games and everything, etc.," Womack said, beaming through a smile after he and his team had taken a selfie to commemorate their first game.
Both are avid golfers — Brilley hopes to golf in college and Womack has been golfing since he was in second grade.
The fact that Brilley plays basketball for the Bulldogs never came up.
They had too many other things to talk about.
Though he's a longtime golfer, Womack has taken a liking to this whole basketball thing.
“I’ve been playing basketball for seven years now," he said. "I didn’t hear about this basketball team until last year."
The question begs: Which is the 17-year-old Womack better at?
“My opinion has always been golf, but I’m pretty good at basketball," Womack said.
Brilley has been volunteering for the Dream Catchers' annual day of basketball since he was a sophomore.
His coach, Tom Noonan, involved the team at the first opportunity. Noonan's uncle, Jim Comerford, is a founding father of Special Olympics in Decatur.
Brilley found time to ref between games and his routine Sunday shootarounds.
It’s more rewarding than any of his basketball accomplishments.
“This is one of the greatest things to be around, it’s a great atmosphere and all of these people are having fun,” Brilley said. “I love it so much.”
Womack was hardly the first player who spent most of the game talking to Brilley.
It’s what made the day so special for Brilley.
For four quarters on the basketball court, the game took a backseat, a sweet reprieve from the grind of Brilley’s season.
“I was talking to a couple of kids, they were messing around with me and joking around with me when I was reffing,” he said. “It’s a great atmosphere to be around. It’s a great thing to help the community. It’s awesome, I love it.”
It was Womack’s first year on the Monticello team, and coach Dan Koenigs first time back coaching the team after a three-year hiatus.
Between games, the players went upstairs at the DISC for lunch and a chance to bond with other Special Olympians from across Central Illinois.
Womack was a fan of the competition.
“It’s pretty good. All the players are good, and I’m trying my best out there,” he said.