Kaitlin Cronin is not averse to taking big shots.
She hit a winning buzzer-beater in double overtime against Half Hollow Hills West in Hauppauge’s first league game last season.
But with this season hanging in the balance, the stakes were higher Friday night.
In the final seconds, with fifth-seeded Hauppauge trailing by a point against 12th-seeded Sachem East, the Eagles’ Mary McKenna made a possession-saving baseline play in which she redirected a ball headed out of bounds to Kayla Petre.
Petre then fed Cronin, who made an uncontested eight-foot jumper from the lane with 4.8 seconds remaining to give host Hauppauge a 55-54 win in the first round of the Suffolk Class AA playoffs.
“We have confidence in her,” coach Jamie Edson said. “And if she misses it, just like anybody else, we always say, ‘If you don’t shoot it, it’s not going in.’ ”
Even with the season on the line, Cronin said she wasn’t nervous. “It just flows right off,” she said. “If I think about it too much, it doesn’t go in.”
The Flaming Arrows missed two looks in the paint in the final moments, sending Hauppauge into a frenzied celebration at midcourt.
After taking a quick 14-4 lead, Hauppauge entered the fourth quarter trailing 49-43 but closed the game with a flourish.
Katie Murphy, who had 21 points and eight assists, started the scoring in the fourth quarter with a three-pointer from the top of the key. She made another from the same spot with 39 seconds left, giving Hauppauge (19-2) a 53-51 lead.
“In my head, I knew I had to take the shot,” she said. “I had it in my head before I took the shot.”
Kelly McKeveny (10 points) answered on the next possession for Sachem East (10-10). Alyssa Signore (13) grabbed a long offensive rebound and swung the ball to Gabby Aspuru (19), who found McKeveny on the right wing for a three-pointer that gave the Arrows a 54-53 lead.
That set up Cronin (eight points) for a shot she’s comfortable taking.
Having orchestrated a comeback against a strong Arrows team, the Eagles will play at No. 4 Copiague on Wednesday in the second round.
And if her number is called, Cronin won’t be hesitant to shoot again.