BALTIMORE | Johns Hopkins inched into overtime Saturday for the third time in three weeks.
Yet again, Brian Christopher was there to bail the Blue Jays out at Homewood Field.
The senior scored his third overtime winner in four games, lifting eighth-seeded Hopkins past plucky Brown 12-11 in the first round of the NCAA tournament.
“The last few weeks have been pretty exciting, but you don’t want to find yourself in that position,” Christopher said. “It’s kind of getting old. I’d like to be able to finish teams off as opposed to going into overtime.”
It is Hopkins’ 19th straight quarterfinal appearance - and one the Blue Jays (10-4) nearly frittered away with the sort of uneven defensive performance that has plagued a program typically strong at that end of the field.
Brown (12-4), which earned its first postseason berth since 1997, erased a three-goal deficit in the fourth quarter - including Kyle Hollingsworth’s hockey-style shot on the crease to tie it with eight seconds remaining.
Hopkins, though, had Mr. Overtime. Christopher skipped in a winner at Towson on April 22 and split two defenders to sink Loyola from nine yards out May 2.
This time, midfielder Mark Bryan created space as the Bears poled both Christopher and midfielder Michael Kimmel. He eventually found Christopher, who darted down the right side and zipped a shot past goalie Jordan Burke (10 saves).
“He dodged down the side, which is what our team defense forces,” Brown coach Lars Tiffany said. “He made a heck of a shot.”
Hopkins exploited Brown’s decision to dabble with a zone in the early portion of the game. Chris Boland produced five goals and two assists - one shy of the school record for points in a tournament game - and Christopher scored three times.
Offense, though, is rarely a concern for this edition of Dave Pietramala’s team. It’s the startling defensive breakdowns that permitted Brown to slice through for tight shots on goalie Mike Gvozden (11 saves) that don’t portend well for the Blue Jays going forward.
Hopkins has yielded 10 goals in eight games this season, the most against the Blue Jays since 1996. But this was particularly troubling with a May 17 quarterfinal date looming with top-seeded Virginia or Villanova in Annapolis.
“I’m extremely disappointed in the play of our defense,” Pietramala said. “I thought it was as undisciplined as we’ve been all year. That’s going to need to improve, and improve quickly.”
Perhaps it was the sobering moment the Blue Jays required. Hopkins remains an imposing opponent in close games, especially as long as Christopher is prowling the midfield.
Still, even he can’t be counted upon to provide tightrope heroics three more times if opponents can dissect the Blue Jays like Brown did Saturday.
“Twice we were up by three goals and Brown came back,” Gvozden said. “Hats off to Brown for doing so, but I think we need to capitalize on the good plays that we make. We need to take another step forward as opposed to a step forward and a step back.”