Midway through the second half of Tuesday's girls lacrosse showdown between Green Hope and unbeaten, three-time defending state champion Apex, the Falcons were leading by six goals and looked as if they might win by double digits.
That certainly didn't happen, as the Cougars, ranked No. 1 in North Carolina, stormed back to score eight goals in the game's final 14 minutes.
However, that wasn't enough to prevent the upset, as Green Hope, ranked third in the state, prevailed 14-13 and handed visiting Apex its first loss in over two years.
Senior Meg Hawthorne scored five goals to lead the Falcons into a tie with the Cougars atop the Conference 2 standings with each team having just one regular-season game left to play. Both Green Hope and Apex are 12-1 overall and 8-1 in the conference.
Neither coach was sure about the exact tie-breaking procedures, although both were already guaranteed a spot in the upcoming state playoffs. Apex defeated Green Hope earlier in the season.
"This is huge," said Green Hope head coach Chrissy Sibley, whose Falcons have reached the state semifinals the past two seasons. "I'm so proud of them for stepping up and playing a full game. We've grown a lot over the last month, and the [Falcons] team that played tonight is not the same team Apex saw the first time."
Green Hope led 5-4 at halftime after falling behind 2-0 in the first few minutes. Hawthorne scored twice in the first half, but saved her best for the first 10 minutes of the second half.
Following intermission Hawthorne scored three goals and assisted twice to propel the Falcons to an 11-5 advantage with 16:12 left in the game.
Still, after Deirdre O'Connor scored to make it 11-5, the Cougars showed why they are the top-ranked team in North Carolina.
Apex went on a 6-1 run in the next ten minutes to trim the Falcons' lead to one goal with 6:05 remaining.
"I think we got a little too settled and then Apex started to make their comeback," Sibley said.
Campbell Stanley helped seal the Falcons' win in the final few minutes, assisting O'Connor on her second goal. Then she scored off a perfect Kate Murphy pass with 2:36 left to give Green Hope a three-goal advantage.
Falcons goalie Katie McCabe made two great saves in the final two minutes.
Katie Wagner led the Cougars with six goals, while Katie McLaughlin and Dana Feldner added two apiece.
"We just started too late," said first-year Apex head coach Jennifer Flaherty. "Green Hope played a great game and was more prepared."
Cardinal Gibbons 7, Wakefield 4: Heading the list of favorites to win the first NCHSAA-sanctioned state title in boys lacrosse has to be Cardinal Gibbons, which wrapped up an undefeated regular season with a win over Conference 3 foe Wakefield.
The 17-0 Crusaders are ranked No. 1 in the state and begin play in the state playoffs next Friday with the same goal they've had all year.
"Our goal is to get better every day, every practice, every game," said coach Mike Curatolo, who started the Gibbons lacrosse program back in 1997 when the Crusaders went 2-14. "This team has some great seniors, plus we start six underclassmen. It's a team with talent and depth."
Gibbons defeated the young Wakefield team 10-1 earlier in the season, but the Wolverines improved enough to test the Crusaders by taking a 1-0 lead, and the score was tied 1-1 after the first quarter.
"We reached the state semi-finals last year, but lost 16 players off that team. We only had two players come back," Wolverines coach James Riedel said. "We're a young, inexperienced team that's matured during the season. But Gibbons is a very good, very sound fundamental team. They should do well in the playoffs, hopefully win the state title."
Greg Williams scored the first goal for Wakefield with 6:48 to play in the first quarter and three minutes later Austin Hardy scored to tie the score at 1-1.
In the second period, Gibbons got a goal from its leading scorer Camden Feldman, two from Will Bremen and one from Matt Skowron for a 5-1 halftime lead.
In the third quarter, Joe Panzi scored for Gibbons, Brett Begin scored for the Wolverines and Bremen scored again for a 7-2 Crusaders lead.
Weston Savody and Braden Leithead notched goals for Wakefield in the final period for the final margin.
Curatolo also singled out junior midfielders Paul Yacono and Sean O'Leary.
The defense has been outstanding all year, led by senior goalie Patrick Kiernan, a 2-year starter who was the defensive MVP in the state finals last year, when Gibbons lost to Charlotte Catholic in the final seconds.
"Wakefield played hard and had a lot of good athletes out there," Curatolo saluted. "Our guys played hard too. It was a competitive game."
Wakefield is 7-6 with one game remaining.
"The improvement of this team is a good beginning for next year for this team. They're playing more to their talent level now," said Riedel, who is moving to the new Heritage High School next year.