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Myles Jones' career day not enough for Duke men's lacrosse as North Carolina tops Blue Devils in overtime thriller

<p>All-American midfielder Myles Jones had one of the best games of his illustrious career Friday, pouring in a career-high 11 points on five goals and six assists.&nbsp;</p>

All-American midfielder Myles Jones had one of the best games of his illustrious career Friday, pouring in a career-high 11 points on five goals and six assists. 

After a miraculous comeback with two goals in the last 1:15 of regulation to force overtime for the third straight game, the Blue Devils looked poised to move to 2-0 in ACC play for the first time since 2011 against their Tobacco Road rivals.

North Carolina had other ideas.

The No. 17 Tar Heels knocked off No. 11 Duke for the second straight year 17-16 in overtime on senior Patrick Kelly’s decisive overtime goal at Koskinen Stadium Friday night. Kelly’s tally came after Duke junior midfielder Jack Bruckner sent the game into a sudden-death extra session with a goal with just 7.6 seconds remaining in regulation that sent the crowd into a frenzy.

Kelly and company overcame Bruckner’s late heroics and the efforts of Blue Devil senior midfielder Myles Jones, who had a career day with five goals and a career-high 11 points, as Duke dropped the back-and-forth shootout.

“I didn’t really take [my performance] into account, but I was just trying to make plays for the team. We needed it. When we were down two goals, [head coach John Danowski] looked at me to make the play,” Jones said. “I know a lot of teams focus on how I play and my game, but that only opens up [my teammates] for good opportunities. [We] finished with 16 goals, something to be really, really proud of as a team. If you need 17, so be it, but we’ve really got to focus on cashing in those opportunities.”

Jones and the Blue Devils (7-5, 1-1 in the ACC) stormed back to send the game into overtime, and also had a chance to steal the win after junior Kyle Rowe won the period’s opening faceoff.

North Carolina utilized a zone defense for much of the second half and stayed in the zone in overtime. Duke swung the ball around the perimeter until it found Jones’ stick, and the All-American let one of his 16 shot attempts on the night rip toward Tar Heel goalkeeper Colin Reder, who recorded his 10th save of the game to keep North Carolina (6-4, 1-0) alive in its ACC opener.

“We knew they were going to come out in zone but they changed their zone,” Jones said. “They had their short stick playing on the perimeter. Instead of dodging from the middle where I was dodging in the second half, I decided to dodge from the wing. I got a good shot, but the goalie made a great save…. I got a shot that I’ve hit multiple times in my career, but it just didn’t go today.”

Facing a two-goal deficit at the half, Duke opened the third period on a 5-0 run to take its first lead of the day with 8:15 remaining in the third frame. But a 5-1 run at the end of the period—including two goals within six seconds of one another in the final 13 seconds—put North Carolina back ahead on the road.

With scoring coming from every direction, the fourth quarter set up for another nail-biter for the Blue Devils. After dropping a 10-9 overtime contest against then-No. 20 Air Force March 22 and pulling out its own 16-15 overtime thriller against then-No. 5 Syracuse Saturday, Duke was set up for its third consecutive overtime battle at home.

Senior Steve Pontrello was nearly as unstoppable as Jones for the Tar Heels. In his last iteration of the Tobacco Road rivalry, the attackman worked the crease and Blue Devil goalkeeper Danny Fowler for a career-high six goals. Pontrello and fellow attackman Luke Goldstock had their way with the Blue Devil defense, combining for 11 points and handing Duke its second consecutive loss in the rivalry.

The first half did not start off how the Blue Devils imagined. In the opening minutes of the first quarter, the Tar Heels broke off an early 3-0 run after winning the first three faceoffs. But after finally grabbing its first faceoff of the night, Duke found the back of the net off the end of Justin Guterding’s stick. Jones found the sophomore attackman—who recorded four goals—waiting wide open at the crease to give the Blue Devils their first goal of the night and break open the shootout for the home squad.

Jones went on to assist on three of the six goals in the first half for the Blue Devils, and scored two of his own before heading into the locker room. Fellow senior midfielder Deemer Class also had a productive first half of play, scoring twice from his patented spot at the right edge of the alley on both tallies to keep the halftime score close at 8-6 in favor of North Carolina.

But the Baltimore native was held in check by the Tar Heels in the second half, failing to record a single point in the final 30 minutes. 

“We’ve just got to put together a full 60-plus minute game if that’s necessary,” Jones said. “We didn’t play well in the first half. We came in the locker room with a ton of things we wanted to talk about or fix and with a week of preparation we knew what they were about and we had a tough time covering it.”

With two conference games in the books, Duke will take more than a week off before hitting the field April 10 to battle No. 2 Notre Dame in South Bend, Ind. Faceoff is set for noon. After battling the Fighting Irish, the Blue Devils will close out ACC regular season play April 17 at Virginia. 

“We were told leading up, ‘Just expect the unexpected.’ To be honest, I don’t think we expected [the zone defense],” Guterding said. “We’re going to work on it to get better. We’re not giving up on the season. We still have half the ACC to go, so we’re going to fight and do whatever it takes.”

Duke head coach John Danowski declined to speak with the media following Friday’s game, the second time Danowski has done so this season. He also declined to speak with reporters after the Blue Devils fell 12-10 at home to Richmond March 7. 

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