Cardinal Gibbons’ girls lacrosse team brought Apex’s undefeated season to a screeching halt with a second-half avalanche of goals in Friday’s fourth round of the N.C. High School Athletic Association playoffs.
The Crusaders broke open what was a close game in the early second half en route to a 17-4 road win. Gibbons is heading to the East final on Tuesday to meet Broughton, where Alexander was once the coach.
The Capitals’ senior class would have been freshmen when Alexander coached them.
“I know a bunch of girls on their team and I they’re extremely talented and they have a terrific coach, Jen (Yoder), who was my assistant when I was at Broughton,” Alexander said.
Apex (17-1) was down just 6-2 at halftime, and cut the lead down to 8-4.
But Gibbons (18-2), who still hasn’t lost to an in-state team since the 2015 state championship, got rolling and couldn’t stop. Cassie New and Grace Nelson won draw after draw.
“We were prepared for any in-state rivalry that sometimes comes down to emotion, or the moment becomes bigger than the actual games,” Alexander said. “I’m proud of our girls for executing until the end.”
Coach Mike Bagnasco lamented some of the tough-luck plays, like the ball almost bouncing opposite from the Apex wings no matter where they set up on the draw, or missing some free-position shots.
“I was just like we were hanging around and waiting for our turn to get momentum. We just couldn’t get momentum,” Bagnasco said. “It was almost like nothing the kids did made that happen, it just happened.”
The Cougars can take solace in the fact that most of this year’s team returns next season.
“That’s a big part of it, (Gibbons) having seniors and juniors who have been in three straight state finals,” Bagnasco said. “And for our girls, who are freshmen and sophomores, that first game was a little big for them. ... Now that we’ve seen that, we have some things we can work on.”