Johns Hopkins takes out Cinderella, steals Duke's spotlight in title win

BALTIMORE -- Just for the record, the Johns Hopkins players would like you to know they won the 2007 lacrosse national championship.

See, the Blue Jays kind of got the feeling you didn't know they were even playing in the Final Four. Seems the spotlight was shining on every other program. But really, they were here. The program has them listed and they're on the NCAA sanctioned T-shirts and everything.

Oh yeah, they're carrying around the championship trophy too.

"Out of the four teams here this weekend, there was the Cinderella story in Delaware, the nation's team in Duke, the undefeated No. 1 team in the nation in Cornell and we were just there," senior Jake Byrne said. "When I woke up this morning and saw a story on the Division I national championships, I don't think Johns Hopkins was mentioned once in the story. I took it personally. It was a motivating factor for us."

Guess it worked. Johns Hopkins scored the game's first goal in just 12 seconds, jumped out to a 10-4 halftime lead, survived a furious Duke flurry and needed a miracle save by goalie Jesse Schwartzman with 9 seconds left to beat Duke 12-11 and secure its second national title in three years.

"I'm proud of these young men," coach Dave Pietramala said. "There was a point this year where there was talk about these guys not making the playoffs. There was a lot of doubt. They banded together, worked very hard and just started to play better. They did some things that were absolutely spectacular to win this game."

Like limit Duke's lethal one-two punch of Matt Danowski and Zack Greer to just one goal and two assists combined. Like holding Duke to just four goals in the first half while storming out and netting 10 goals. Like winning the first nine faceoffs.

It was about as perfect of a first half as can be played.

"We always had one guy step up each game, but never put it all together," said junior middie Paul Rabil. "That first half, we did it all. We moved the ball well, we were putting the ball where we wanted it. It was kind of surprising, but on the other side comforting. It felt good."

But all good things come to an end. Duke came out in the third quarter and scored five goals in a little over five minutes. What once looked like a blowout was now a nail-biter. JHU went up by two. Duke tied it. JHU's Kevin Huntley then scored with 3:25 left to make it 12-11 and left the game in the hands of Schwartzman.

There are worse fates in life.

Schwartzman may "march to his own beat," as Pietramala said, but he's as good as it gets. As he has improved, so has Hopkins -- to the tune of two national titles in the past three years. And this year's run was made possible because Pietramala pulled Schwartzman after he surrendered a pair of goals in the first quarter earlier this season against Mount Saint Mary's.

"I've threatened him a million times, but never did it and it was the right time," Pietramala said. "And if there's one thing that Jesse can't stand, it's feeling like he let his teammates down. And he really felt like he let them down then."

So he worked on making sure that never happened again. He had teammates come out and fire shot after shot at him. He hit the weight room. He ran extra laps.

"That whole week was different. I had to improve," Schwartzman said. "But my teammates showed confidence in me and they wanted me in the cage."

And never more so than in the final three minutes of the championship game. Schwartzman spent that time calling out the plays on defense -- specifically, how to defend Greer and Danowski. But the best came with just 9 seconds left to play, as Brad Ross wheeled and fired.

"He had been shooting well all game and got the shot off," Schwartzman said. "I really didn't see it too well. I wanted him to stay high, but when I saw him come at me low, I quickly realized I wasn't going to get my stick down, so I just kicked my leg out and just prayed the ball would hit my leg and it did."

It caromed out and Max Quinzani got one last shot, but it was wide right.

"That was a long quarter," Schwartzman said. "That final 15 minutes felt like 3 hours and 15 minutes."

But by the time it ended, Schwartzman was named the tournament's Most Outstanding Player for the second time -- "Two rings and two MOP's … that's pretty good there," said Schwartzman -- and Johns Hopkins, with its ninth national championship, reminded the world they were still pretty good in lacrosse.

"Before we ran out of the tunnel, I was joking around and yelling 'Show everyone what you got. … Show everyone what you got,'" said Hopkins junior Stephen Peyser. "When we first got here, we were the forgotten sons. So we said we were going to do this quietly and sneak up on everyone. When it's our time, we would show the lacrosse world what we're really made of. We definitely did that today."

Joe Wojciechowski is an NFL editor for ESPN.com.