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Nick Petrucelli, T.J. Danns lead Hicksville in Class AA quarterfinal

Nicholas Petrucelli of Hicksville attempts a free throw

Nicholas Petrucelli of Hicksville attempts a free throw against Great Neck South. (Feb. 20, 2013) Credit: Mike Stobe

When pressure mounts, sometimes it's best to just pretend you are elsewhere. So that's exactly what Nick Petrucelli and T.J. Danns did.

In their minds, they weren't standing on the free-throw line, surrounded by a gym filled with screaming fans, with their team's season on the line. That's far too nerve-wracking.

"Practice," Danns said. "We just had to make it seem like we were at practice."

With Hicksville trailing by one with 1:24 remaining in overtime, Petrucelli stood at the line for a one-and-one hoping to take the lead. He drained both.

With Hicksville (15-4) then leading by one with 3.9 seconds remaining, it was Danns' turn at the line with a chance to help secure the win. He hit both.

The 50 free throws they shoot a day at practice paid off as No. 5 Hicksville defeated No. 4 Great Neck South, 64-61, in the Nassau Class AA quarterfinals.

Those clutch free throws, however, wouldn't have been possible without Michal Julka. The senior guard scored 11 of his 17 points in the fourth quarter and shot 5-for-9 overall from downtown to help Hicksville erase a 47-40 deficit.

"My teammates were telling me to get hot," Julka said. "They wanted me to shoot the ball and I did what they want. They trusted me."

Julka dribbled over a screen and drained a straightaway three with 6:45 left in the fourth to pull Hicksville within 50-48. On the next possession, he hit a three off a broken play to give Hicksville, which trailed by as many as 12, its first lead since early in the second quarter.

Petrucelli finished with 13 points, eight rebounds and seven assists and Danns had 19 points.

Great Neck South's Mark Jason hit two free throws with 6.2 seconds left to tie the score at 57 and force overtime. Mitchell Finkel had 17 points, including a putback with two minutes remaining in overtime that gave South (12-5) a 61-60 lead. Benjamin Lee had 14 points and Brandon Brown added 11.

Hicksville advances to play No. 1 Baldwin in the semifinals at 7:30 p.m. on Tuesday at Old Westbury."We have a mission and that's to get to the counties at least," Petrucelli said. "Our mission isn't complete yet but we're getting closer."

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