Fans who stuck around for the second half of a N.C. High School Athletic Association third-round lacrosse playoff doubleheader couldn’t have asked for a more thrilling contest.
With 24.1 seconds left, Apex senior Justin Freeman got free and scored the game-winner for a 10-9 victory over host Broughton. The Capitals led 9-8 with 1:55 to go but Apex struck twice in the last 1:07.
“That was one that, if you lose, you’re not up in anybody’s face,” Apex coach John Hayden said. “Broughton made some good plays.”
The home crowd left happier about the girls’ game, as the Caps started the evening with a 20-9 victory over visiting East Chapel Hill.
Broughton (16-1) came out firing on all cylinders and jumped out to an 8-0 lead. The Caps were up 14-2 at halftime.
“We weren’t sure what to expect and when we saw the score of the Wakefield game (a 13-4 East Chapel Hill win) we just said to the girls ‘Look you girls have to come out as hard as you can, and show them what we’re here to do.’ I think they really took that to heart and went with it,” Broughton coach Jen Yoder said.
As potent as the offense was – Carol Siegler led the way with three goals and six assists while Georgia Davis had five goals and two assists – the defense had one of its best performances of the year. Broughton stepped in front of several ECH passes that looked like sure assists.
“We just kind of know each other and where each other’s going to be,” defender Marcy Waters said.
The Caps are back in the fourth round, where last year’s run ended at halftime. Broughton was down 8-7 to Wakefield when lightning prevented the game from being resumed, giving Wakefield the win.
“We really want to get by that round this year to redeem what happened last year,” Waters said.
The No. 2 overall-seeded Caps will host No. 4 Hoggard in the next round.
After her first year with the Wildcats (10-5), coach Jessica-Claire Jones was thankful for the group she had. Reilly Reed had four goals and fellow senior Sienna Zuco had three.
“I’m so proud of them. They played so hard to the very end. My first year was amazing, I think inheriting a group of seniors like this is every coach’s dream,” Jones said. “They’re coachable, they work hard, they bring it in practice every single day. They raise the level of play of the teammates around them. They were just mentally tough, and I’m proud of them. Their sportsmanship before and after games; they’re just a classy group of girls. It was a really fun season.”
Freeman is the second-leading scorer for the Cougars (15-4), but he spent most of Tuesday’s game as a facilitator for his teammates. But in the final seconds, he had to take on his defender.
“We had been working the ball around. When the ball got to me ... I knew I wanted to take it ... I forced my way in, saw an opening and shot it,” Freeman said. “I was moving the ball a lot more this game than I’m used to, but I still thought I was doing the right thing. I was moving the ball quick and that’s what was needed.”
Broughton (17-1) took a 9-8 lead with 1:55 to go on Gordon Guest’s first goal of the day, but Preston Lalicker scored his fifth goal for Apex with 1:07 on the clock before the Cougars found the game-winner.
It’s the second straight year the Caps have gone 17-1 under second-year coach Michael Raskevitz despite losing many seniors from last year’s squad. Van Parker, who had two goals to end his sophomore year with 88 total, will return next year with all but seven Broughton players.
“I’m so impressed with not just how the kids handled themselves on the field but the quality of characters off the field as well,” Raskevitz said. “It stinks to lose, but it’s fun to be in a game like that with a really high quality opponent.”
Apex will travel to Cardinal Gibbons in the next round.
“Gibbons is definitely a big rival of ours,” Freeman said. “We’re definitely excited for that.”