In terms of playoff implications, Friday’s boys lacrosse regular season finale between N&O No. 2 Apex and No. 5 Green Hope meant nothing.
Don’t tell that to the players and coaches involved, though. Apex came out on top of an emotional game, using a late run to pull away from Green Hope 15-10.
In a game of runs, Green Hope cut Apex’s lead down to one with a little under 10 minutes left on a goal by sophomore attacker Aidan Callahan.
Then the floodgates opened for Apex on offense. Bookended by goals from freshman attacker Christian Cechini and senior attacker Alex McClure, the Cougars ended the game on a 4-0 run to spoil Green Hope’s senior night.
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With the win, Apex (16-1, 12-0) completed a perfect conference season, going undefeated against SWAC opponents.
Green Hope (13-4, 9-3) opened the contest with back-to-back goals by senior attacker Nolan Paussa and eventually led 3-0 before Apex coach John Hayden called a timeout to get a point across to his team.
“I wanted to kick them in the rear end,” John Hayden said.
The message was apparently well-received.
Apex scored the game’s next seven goals, three of which came from senior attacker Jack Hayden.
Green Hope fought back, though and trailed by just one goal come halftime. But Apex’s defense tightened up as the game went on and chances proved to be fewer and farther between for the Falcons as senior goalie Andrew Mason allowed only three goals during the final 24 minutes.
Despite the loss, Green Hope coach John Larkin was impressed with the way his group fought against a tough opponent.
“It was senior night for us and it’s unfortunate for those guys that we couldn’t pull it out, but our guys worked their (butts) off,” Larkin said.
When Callahan scored to bring Green Hope within one, it seemed like the Falcons might have had one last rally in them. But Apex’s barrage of four goals in a 1:58 span prevented any chance of senior night win for the home team.
John Hayden thought about calling a timeout late in the game to settle his team down, but thought better of it.
“You know what, sometimes you just have to let the kids play,” John Hayden said.
They said it
“Any game, no matter how much it counts, it can change our season and we all know that.” – Apex senior attacker Jack Hayden on not losing focus on Friday’s game.
Three to know
Jack Hayden, Apex: The senior’s three goals powered a 7-0 run for the Cougars in the first half and even when he didn’t have the ball, he drew attention from the Green Hope defense.
Nolan Paussa, Green Hope: Playing in his final home game, Paussa came up big for Green Hope. After scoring the game’s first two goals, he also scored back-to-back goals late in the second quarter to tie the game at 7-7.
Alex McClure, Apex: McClure scored three times and his final goal put Apex ahead by five.
Both Apex and Green Hope have first round byes in the N.C. High School Athletic Association 4A playoffs and will start second round play on Friday.
Apex will host either Enloe or a wild-card team. Green Hope gets N&O No. 1 Cardinal Gibbons.