DURHAM — If you had walked into Duke’s Brodie Recreation Center on the morning of Sunday, Jan. 26, you would've seen what looked like a typical pickup basketball game.
But it wasn’t just any game. Eight members of The Daily Tar Heel sports desk traveled out to Durham for The Battle of the Blues: Newspaper Edition as they faced off against more than 20 members of the Duke Chronicle.
Yes, the game was fueled primarily by deciding which college has the better newspaper. But the two are also competing to see who can raise the most money ahead of the first UNC-Duke men’s basketball game of the season, and who can put out the better rivalry edition.
“We kick their ass with our sports coverage,” senior writer Parth Upadhyaya said. “Why not kick their ass on the court, too?”
The DTH sports desk overwhelmed the Chronicle, winning three games to one in a best of five series on the road.
“You could feel the tension from the rivalry matchup,” sophomore assistant editor Matt Chilson said. “We came into the game very confident, and I think they could kind of tell from the beginning that we were confident. That was really the difference in the first two games.
“We thought we were going to win, and I don’t know if they really felt the same way.”
Game 1 was the only one close out of the 4 that the journalists played, but the DTH was still able to set the tone. Early on, Chapel Fowler, a senior and self-described "discount Nikola Jokić," got under the basket early in the first game. He quickly dumped the ball off to fellow senior Matthew Audilet, a forward on the UNC club basketball team, who caught the pass and dunked easily.
“I looked over at the Duke bench, and they were in shock,” Audilet said. “They were like, ‘Did he really just do that?’”
Sports editor Ryan Wilcox described the look as "50 percent scared, 50 percent like they had never played basketball before." Despite missing some shots early on, Wilcox scored the final five points in a closely-contested first game to take a 1-0 series lead.
“Just a good-ass feeling to beat Duke and be the one to hit the last shot,” Wilcox said.
Tensions rose in Game 2 when the DTH's Ryan Heller started playing a physical brand of defense, angering a Chronicle staffer. A yelling and shoving match ensued, causing the editors to separate the two and call for a brief cooling-off period.
“For a moment, I thought he wanted to fight me," Heller said. "I had no intention of escalating it in any sort of manner. I was just trying to get in his head.”
The Chronicle’s only win came in Game 3 with a 23-15 victory. But the DTH ended the series in Game 4, as Audilet went on an 8-0 tear by himself to start the game. Later on, he found himself one-on-one with a defender on a fast break, "as good of a time as any to try to dunk on someone."
The poster attempt, which would've been one for the ages, rimmed out.
“I could barely stand up, I was in so much shock,” Upadhyaya said. “(The Chronicle staffer's) life flashed before his eyes.”
Despite being outmanned and in a hostile environment, the DTHers handled business. And while the Chronicle declined to travel to Chapel Hill this year, all signs are pointing to a rematch in Woollen Gym in 2021.
“The number one thing for me was doing it on the road,” Wilcox said. “They 'overwhelmingly voted' to stay (in Durham), so we overwhelmingly voted to kick their ass.”
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