LI's Kyle Keenan lifts Duke to NCAA men's lacrosse title game

Christian Walshof the Duke Blue Devils, center, celebrates
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Christian Walshof the Duke Blue Devils, center, celebrates after scoring a second-half goal against the Denver Pioneers during the semifinals of the 2014 NCAA Division I Men's Lacrosse Championship at M&T Bank Stadium on May 24, 2014 in Baltimore.(Credit: Getty Images / Rob Carr)

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BALTIMORE - Duke, with the second-best offense in the nation, is always in attack mode. Kyle Keenan, however, has spent all of his junior season in midfield mode.

Until Saturday.

Keenan (Smithtown West) moved back to his natural position at attack, because of an injury to his good friend Josh Dionne, and responded with four goals and an assist as Duke outslugged Denver, 15-12, in the first game of the Division I men's lacrosse Final Four at M&T Bank Stadium. "I was just in the right place at the right time. I got a bunch of great feeds," Keenan said.

One of them came from Case Matheis during a key sequence early in the fourth quarter, as Keenan cut to the top of the slot and fired home an overhand rocket that gave Duke a 13-11 lead after Denver's 4-1 run. Fifteen seconds later, Deemer Class scored unassisted and Duke was back in control.

"I just remember that I wanted to stop that run," Keenan said. "We were just trying to get a good offensive possession. I saw a cut and Case put it right on my stick."

His stick wasn't exactly his best friend early in the contest, when Keenan, a second-line midfielder, was starting in a big spot because Dionne (49 goals) was sidelined with a knee injury. Jordan Wolf (62 goals) complemented Keenan with three goals and two assists. "I definitely had some jitters," Keenan said. "On my second dodge, my stick hit my foot. But my first assist calmed me down."

That came early in the first quarter, on a pass that Class converted. The Blue Devils (16-3) built an 8-4 lead at the half and led 11-7 late in the third quarter. But Wesley Berg scored two of his five goals to spark the Pioneers' (16-3) comeback. "It's a game of runs and we had ours in the first half and we knew they'd have theirs," said Myles Jones (Whitman), who scored two goals with an assist. "But when we needed to score, we stepped up."

Jones did some of the stepping. After Berg made it 11-10, Jones took a feed from Christian Walsh (one goal, three assists) and blasted one home. "You kind of let down a little bit, even when you have the lead, when a team starts making runs," Jones said. "But you try to put one in to stop the bleeding."

Speaking of first aid, Duke coach John Danowski needed some in net when starter Luke Aaron got victimized by Denver's late-game blitz. So Danowski summoned Kyle Turri (West Islip) early in the fourth quarter. Turri made four key saves to allow the 2013 champions to defend their title Monday against Notre Dame at 1 p.m.

"He came up big. He's always ready. He's the best teammate anyone could have," Keenan said. "And he's my roommate."

It was a good day for a couple of Kyles, not usually the first name in Duke royalty.

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