Apex and Cardinal Gibbons knew before the season that this game was coming – they were going to have to play one another with a spot in the state championship on the line.
That day came on May 20, and Apex’s Mia Castagnero came through.
She won the draw, sprinted downfield and scored with 45 seconds left to give the Cougars a 15-14 victory against Cardinal Gibbons in the N.C. High School Athletic Association East final. Unlike Castagnero, her teammates couldn’t contain their excitement once the final second ticked off the clock.
Castagnero was eerily calm during the wild game. After initially being stripped of the ball, she simply regained possession and took the game-winning shot. She didn’t so much as pump a fist after it went in.
The Cougars, which had lost the regular-season showdown 18-14, led 7-3 early and 9-7 at halftime, but that lead evaporated late as Gibbons scored four times in 10 minutes to tie it at 14-all with 1:19 left on the clock.
“I got stripped of the ball because I wasn’t being very careful with it. Luckily I was able to get it back and score, so we got lucky there,” Castagnero said.
She and teammate Erin Cornell scored six goals apiece.
The drama heightened when Gibbons’ best player, senior Shelby Scanlin, collided with Apex goalie Rose Redfoot just a few minutes into the second half.
Scanlin could only watch as Apex’s lead grew back to four goals.
After missing 13 minutes of game time, Scanlin came back in and nearly single-handedly won the game. She scored 19 seconds after returning to the field and finished with five goals, tied for the team-high with Rebecca Wiley.