In the third quarter of the N.C. High School Athletic Association boys’ lacrosse state championship game, you could be forgiven if you wanted to console the Apex players.
They had a great season. But now they were down five with not much time left to Lake Norman, the defending state champs. Lake Norman was a big team and was pushing around an undersized yet feisty Cougars squad.
The team that had been red hot toward the end of the regular season and rode that momentum through the playoffs, taking down a Cardinal Gibbons team that denied it the conference title, looked like it was headed for a second runner-up finish in four years.
Then it started happening. Junior goalie Tyler Nesbitt made crucial saves that led to transition goals, and the Cougars were down 9-7 entering the fourth quarter. It was anyone’s game.
Ryan Sullivan and Colby Lalicker dominated face-offs in the second half.
Four goals later, Apex had a 11-10 lead with 3:10 on the clock.
Lake Norman tied the game at the 1:02 mark when Eddie Hendrickson found the net on an assist from Austin Grassey.
But Apex had the final possession.
Seniors Luke Sieber and Derek Sweet, freshmen when the Cougars were runners-up in 2010, paired up once more: Sweet took a Sieber pass and scored with one second remaining.
The Cougars won, 12-11.