It would have been a wonderful story: The Duke lacrosse team completing its emotional comeback season by claiming its first national championship before a record crowd.
Johns Hopkins wrote its own ending, one that left Duke's players engulfed in an emotion they hadn't experienced in nearly a year — bitter disappointment.
Hopkins claimed its ninth lacrosse title Monday, withstanding a furious Duke rally before escaping with a 12-11 victory.
The Blue Jays (13-4) never trailed. But they blew a six-goal halftime lead and found themselves locked in a tie at 11 after Duke's Max Quinzani scored with 4:37 remaining.
Hopkins attackman Kevin Huntley followed with his third goal of the game, with 3:25 to go, but the Blue Jays couldn't celebrate until Quinzani's shot went wide of the goal as time expired.
Ten seconds earlier, Hopkins goalie Jesse Schwartzman blocked a shot by Brad Ross.
After the clock expired, the Blue Jays celebrated, and the Blue Devils (17-3) gathered in a somber huddle in front of their bench.
Despite the loss, Duke's performance effectively purged any remaining bitterness from an agonizing 2006 season that was canceled after eight games.
The Blue Devils lost to Hopkins in the 2005 title game, but missed a chance to return the following season after an exotic dancer claimed she was attacked by three Duke players at a team party.
The allegations, which included rape and kidnapping charges, ultimately proved to be false. But the revelation came too late to save Duke's season or the job of coach Mike Pressler, who watched Monday's game among the championship-game record crowd of 48,443 fans while first-year coach John Danowski ran a team consisting of dozens of Pressler recruits.
At game's end, Pressler hung his head.
Duke came up short, but could take consolation in at least playing the game. One year earlier, their season ended long before Memorial Day, after a loss to Cornell on March 21.
Ned Crotty scored three goals for the Blue Devils, who came into Monday's game with a school-record 12-game winning streak, a run that included an 11-9 win over Hopkins on April 7.
Jake Byrne scored four goals, and Paul Rabil had a goal and five assists for Hopkins.
Duke trailed 10-4 at halftime, then blanked Hopkins in the third period and closed to 10-9 entering the final period.
Quinzani started the comeback by scoring with 10:50 left in the third quarter, and Ned Crotty scored 24 seconds later. Goals by Brad Ross, Mike Catalino and Peter Lamade followed, getting the Blue Devils to 10-9 with 5:21 left in the period.
Rabil ended Hopkins' drought early in the fourth quarter, but Matt Danowski — the coach's son — answered for Duke with 12:29 left, setting the stage for the exciting finish.
Byrne scored four goals in the first half, and the Blue Jays outshot Duke 27-12 and won 12 of 16 faceoffs.
Hopkins needed only 12 seconds to get the game's first goal and led 4-2 after the first period. The Blue Jays won all seven faceoffs in the opening quarter and limited Duke to only four shots.
The trend continued in the second quarter. Hopkins won the first two faceoff and got goals from Stephen Peyser and Byrne to up its lead to 6-2.
Lamade answered for the Blue Devils, but the Blue Jays peeled off two goals in a 49-second span to go up by five. It was 8-4 before Byrne and teammate Steven Boyle added goals to make it 10-4.