UNC edges out Duke in high school’s Rec Ball Championship

Leon Yang, Sports Writing Editor

The most highly anticipated sports game of the entire year took place at Schluntz Gymnasium on Thursday, March 17, as #8 Duke and the #6 University of North Carolina (the high school equivalents to the elite college programs), both underdogs throughout the playoffs, battled in a high intensity Rec Ball Championship.

At the end of the nailbiter, UNC emerged as the 2016 Rec Ball Champions, edging out Duke 41-40.

At 6 p.m., while the two teams were still warming up, numerous fans filed into the stadium. The stands started to clutter with around six fans. This number spiked to a crowd of 12 by the end of the night.

The game started with a great surge of energy on both sides. UNC junior Zach Knopf had a fast start, scoring his team’s first three points.

Fast break opportunities on both sides failed to score due to tight lockdown defense. One highlight was Duke senior David Knopov’s posterizing block on a fast break opportunity by UNC. Another notable performance was Duke junior Carson Murphy, who was a standout on transitions, fighting for balls and saving them from going out of bounds. He also scored all of Duke’s first quarter points. Sophomore Joseph Willen was also a standout defensively, denying many UNC players at the rim and fighting to secure rebounds.

The high-scoring contest culminated in a first quarter score of 5-4.

The second quarter started with much of the same play, with neither team scoring until Duke senior Tyree Sanders-Glover stormed down the right side for a layup. Knopf quickly responded with a nifty layup of his own. Murphy continued to fight for loose balls, asserting himself as a dominant figure in the paint. The score was tied up at 7-7 with 7:20 left in the quarter, as the teams piled on the score.

The two teams then engaged in a back-and-forth contest, trading baskets. After Knopf knocked down two free throws and UNC established a 10-7 with 3:10 remaining, Duke senior Kay Takinami shot a dagger three from the left corner. UNC Junior Matt DeAngelo responded by knocking down a jumper. Later on in the quarter, a Takinami steal followed by a Knopov three caused the Duke bench to erupt in cheers. UNC senior Elijah Elmore then highlighted his speed on a wicked fast turnover, weaving past defenders on his way to the hoop.

The half ended with the score knotted at 14-14.

The second half began with a Knopov jumper and a Sanders-Glover layup. The tide seemed to toward Duke, as the team went on a 8-0 run, opening up its largest lead of the night. Sanders-Glover knocked down a three, which was quickly answered by a layup by UNC senior John Elcock. The score was 22-17 in favor of Duke with 6:25 left in the third quarter.

After Kay Takinami fought to keep a possession alive for Duke, he knocked down a killer three from the left side. Duke got into foul trouble later in the fourth quarter, as UNC cut Duke’s lead to 25-19 with three minutes left in the quarter. Takinami left the third quarter with four fouls. The score remained 25-21 at the end of the third quarter.

Knopf started the fourth quarter with a quick three, cutting Duke’s lead to one. Knopov continued to fearlessly drive into the lane, charging defenders and drawing many fouls.

After Knopf knocked down two free throws, UNC junior Isaac Rimm knocked down a three. The teams went back and forth, and with five minute left in the game, the game was tied 29-29.

UNC managed to capture the lead at 30-31, but a quick Takinami layup recaptured the lead for Duke. A Knopov three increased the Duke’s lead to 34-30. Owens quickly responded with a layup for UNC on the next possession.

Murphy left the game with five fouls with 3:00 left, capping off a great aggressive game and earning him defensive MVP honors (along with Willen). Tyree scored a nifty layup, but Knopf again responded, this time with a three that cut the lead down to 38-37.

Owens knocked down two free throws, but then Knopov scored an incredible lay up. Willen blocked UNC’s attempt to take the lead. The score was 40-39, in favor of Duke, with 26.0 second remaining in the contest.

With the clock winding down, UNC Owens scored a lay up with 12.7 seconds left, giving UNC a 41-40 lead. Duke’s coaches called a quick timeout, but Duke failed to score on their next possession. Tempers flared because of a controversial lack of foul call on David Knopov, after he was hammered by a UNC player while attempting a layup in the final seconds. Duke coaches Noa Dalzell, Olivia Mosquera and Alicia Landry were vehement. Duke players surrounded Knopov as he scrutinized a video of the play on his phone, but UNC emerged victorious nonetheless.

After the game, Rec Ball Championship MVP Knopf explained why his team won.

“We hit those treys,” Knopf said. “You know what I’m saying?”

Knopf, who hit many clutch threes, credited his teammates for setting him up.

“My teammates, my teammates led the way,” Knopf said. “I got that ball at the end of the fourth quarter. My teammates helped me get into the open, and I just felt it, and I splashed it.”

Elcock, who recognized Knopf’s clutch shots, also said that his team performed much better than in the regular season.

“We had one win during the regular season, and we kind of came together and took over,” Elcock said. “It’s all about the post season. It’s all about the post season.”