CHAPEL HILL, NC – R.G. Keenan scored his only goal of the game six seconds into overtime to lift the sixth-ranked North Caorlina men’s lacrosse team to a dramatic 11-10 win over eighth-ranked Johns Hopkins at, appropriately, Kenan Stadium, Saturday afternoon. Keenan’s goal gave the Tar Heels the win in a game they never trailed until the last five minutes of regulation, but tied late to force extra time.
The Blue Jays took their only lead of the game with 4:36 remaining in regulation when senior John Greeley capped a long possession by getting to the middle of the field and beating North Carolina goalie Kieran Burke from 10 yards out to make it 10-9.
The Tar Heels, playing from behind for the first time in the game, got the equalizer with 90 seconds left on the clock when Chad Tutton drove from the top of the box and found Davey Emala on the doorstep. Emala turned and shoveled a shot past Pierce Bassett to force the fourth tie of the game.
Johns Hopkins won the ensuing faceoff and had possession for the final 1:23 out of a timeout, but the Tar Heel defense kept the Blue Jays away and never allowed a clean look at the goal to force overtime. There, Keenan took over to lift the ‘Heels to their fourth consecutive victory.
The frantic ending seemed almost appropriate in a game that Carolina led by three goals once and two goals four different times, only to have the Blue Jays fight back each time.
After Emala and Ryan Brown traded goals in the first four minutes of the game, the Tar Heels grabbed the momentum with a three-goal run late in the first quarter to grab a 4-1 lead.
Sophomore Joey Sankey used a pick along the goal line to get topside on his defender and rifled home an eight-yard shot to make it 2-1 and Marcus Holman and Emala scored goals just 30 seconds apart to make it 4-1.
After the Tar Heel defense forced a turnover, Holman scored in transition and Emala went backdoor on his defender and took a perfect feed from Tutton just off the crease and scored to give UNC the three-goal lead.
The Blue Jays sliced the deficit to 4-2 late in the first quarter as junior Brandon Benn blew home a 10-yarder while the Blue Jays had the man advantage and Lee Coppersmith broke a long scoring drought for both teams when he dodged down the ally and ripped a 12-yard shot to make it 4-3.
The Blue Jays nearly tied the game late in the second quarter, but Burke made two of his 10 first-half saves on the doorstep in a span of three seconds and UNC took off in transition, where Holman again made them pay with a 12-yard blast that accounted for a 5-3 score at the half.
A back-and-forth third quarter saw the Blue Jays pull to within one twice in the first six minutes, only to have the Tar Heels answer each time with Tutton giving UNC the third of its four two-goal leads with an unassisted strike with 8:45 remaining that made it 7-5.
Hopkins finally drew even at 7-7 on John Ranagan and Zach Palmer goals just 51 seconds apart midway through the quarter, but a Ryan Creighton goal late in the period and the only goal of the game by sophomore Jimmy Bitter gave the Tar Heels a 9-7 lead early in the fourth.
As it had all day, Johns Hopkins rallied. Brown’s second goal of the game – from in-tight on a nice feed to the crease by Palmer –made it 9-8 with 12:34 remaining and Palmer went upstairs with a left-handed laser to draw the Blue Jays even with just under eight minutes on the clock.
That score held for more than three minutes before Greeley gave JHU its only lead of the game in the final five minutes, a lead Emala wiped away late, setting the stage for Keenan’s overtime heroics.
Palmer led the Blue Jays with three goals and one assist, while Coppersmith (2g, 1a), Brown (2g), Greeley (1g, 1a) and Wells Stanwick (2a) also registered multi-point games for JHU. Johns Hopkins held advantages in shots (48-37) and faceoffs (13-11) and got eight saves from Bassett in goal.
Emala matched Palmer’s three-goal effort and Holman (2g, 2a) and Sankey (2g) both added multi-goal games for the Tar Heels, who also got 12 saves in goal from Burke. Keenan won 11-of-24 faceoffs, grabbed five ground balls and end it with his second goal of the season.
#8 Johns Hopkins (6-3) 2-1-4-3-0/10
#6 North Carolina (7-3) 4-1-3-2-1/11
Goals: J: Palmer-3, Coppersmith-2, Brown-2, Greeley, Benn, Ranagan. N:Emala-3, Holman-2, Sankey-2, Tutton, Bitter, Keenan, Creighton. Assists: J: Stanwick-2, Coppersmith, Greeley, Palmer. N: Holman-2, Kilpatrick-2, Tutton-2. Saves: J: Bassett-8. N: Burke-12. Shots: J-48. N-37. EMO: J: 1-for-3. N: 0-for-3. Attendance: 5,922.