Near the end of halftime of MacArthur's Nassau Class AA quarterfinal against Herricks, MacArthur assistant coach Michael Gattus told his center Stephanie Volpe to take a few warm-up free throws before the start of the third quarter.
Little did he know that Volpe's foul shooting ultimately would decide the game.
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Volpe was fouled going to the basket with the score tied and one second left in the fourth quarter and knocked down two high-arcing free throws to complete a second-half comeback for No. 4 MacArthur in a 40-38 victory Tuesday night over No. 5 Herricks.
MacArthur will play No. 1 Massapequa on Feb. 27 in a semifinal.
"I knew I had to make it in or when I got fouled, I just had to make them," Volpe said. "It's great that all the foul shooting in practice finally paid off. I just needed to relax, tune everything out and focus on it."
Added Gattus: "We told her to shoot some free throws and attack and that's exactly what she did at the end of the game. It was so awesome to see it pay off in the end."
Volpe's free throws gave MacArthur its only lead, as Alison Ricchiuti had Herricks (15-4) ahead by as many as 13 points in the second quarter with 14 of her game-high 22 points in the first half.
The game turned in the third quarter when Courtney Noakes' three-pointer on MacArthur's first possession of the half cut Herricks' lead to 21-15. She and Jena Cozza totaled 12 points in the quarter, as the Generals came within 31-29 heading into the fourth.
"The play was for me and I knew I needed to make the shot to change the pace of the game," Noakes said of her key three-pointer. "It was a tough game but we pulled it together."
In the fourth, Samantha Santeramo's defense helped contain Ricchiuti, as Cozza (19 points) and Noakes (12 points) kept the offensive pressure on to keep it tight until Volpe's free throws sealed it.
"We get Jena the ball, Courtney the ball. Good things are going to happen," Gattus said. "The big difference in this game is when Sam guarded [Ricchiuti] and she did an unbelievable job and Courtney had the game of her life. She was huge for us."
The game was delayed for 12 minutes with 7:42 left in the fourth quarter because of a power outage.