GLENDALE - Salpointe Catholic senior Daniel Arzouman hadn't scored all game when coach Brian Holstrom called on him at the most critical time after he was fouled.
The No. 6 Lancers were clinging to a one-point lead over third-seeded Phoenix Sierra Linda with 38.6 seconds left in the Division II state quarterfinals at Jobing.com Arena.
"It's my senior year. I want the ball in my hands, and I want to make a play," Arzouman said. "Coach sent me in and said, 'You're going to hit your free throws.'
"So I went in there, got the ball and stepped up and knew I was going to make those two shots."
Arzouman sank a pair of free throws to extend Salpointe's lead. Junior Jack Schannep then added two more as the Lancers held on to win 60-55.
The Lancers are now one win away from their first championship appearance since 1999. They will face No. 18 Avondale Agua Fria at Jobing.com Arena today at 3:30 p.m. in the state semifinals.
Holstrom said Arzouman and Logan Tober, the team's captains and only seniors, keep the young team focused - especially because Salpointe (22-10) had to battle late.
Sierra Linda (26-3) went up 51-49 with 2:50 left in the game after senior Jonathan Matthews, who had a game-high 27 points, scored on a drive to the basket.
But the Lancers re-took the lead after sophomore Jaylyn Juan converted a three-point play with 1:59 remaining.
Less than one minute later, junior Ryan Callaghan, who scored a team-high 15 points, slammed a two-handed dunk from the right side to extend Salpointe's lead to three.
The Bulldogs tied the game 11 seconds later when Edgar Sarmiento sank a three-pointer for what would be their last field goal. Callaghan put the Lancers back up for good with a layup from the right side with 49.5 seconds left.
Juan finished with 11 points and was one of four Lancers scoring in double figures. Juniors Hunter Lowry and Cameron Denson scored 12 and 11 points, respectively.
"That's the difference between this year's and last year's basketball teams," Denson said. "This year we have a few guys averaging double digits so it's a lot of team basketball and that's making a big difference in the playoffs."
• No. 18 Avondale Agua Fria 69, No. 7 Nogales 62: In Glendale, the Apaches (23-7) committed 20 turnovers against the Owls on the way to a seven-point loss. Agua Fria seniors Aaron Hall and Alex Solarez combined for 39 points.
"They weren't quick, they just made good smart choices," Nogales coach Ricardo De La Riva said. "We didn't. We just threw the ball too much."
Senior Andres Marquez led Nogales with 18 points but fouled out late in the third quarter. Fellow senior Bryan Cervantes finished with 13.
"Our mission was to win state but we were able to have a good season and we demonstrated we had the talent to win state, but we just fell short at the end," Marquez said.
• No. 1 Phoenix Sunnyslope 59, No. 8 Sahuaro 50: In Glendale, junior Arthur Gibson scored a game-high 18 points but the Cougars (22-10) couldn't climb out of an early 17-point deficit. Sahuaro outscored Sunnyslope in the final three quarters but still fell.
"I think the moment gets to us a little bit," Sahuaro coach Jim Henry said. "This is a young group and it's their first experience in the state tournament. Once we settled down we played really hard."
Today's Division II state semifinal games will be streamed live on aia365.com/videos
• Girls: No. 6 Flowing Wells vs. No. 2 Chandler Seton Catholic, 1:45 p.m.
• Boys: No. 6 Salpointe Catholic vs. No. 18 Avondale Agua Fria, 3:30 p.m.
Contact reporter Daniel Gaona at firstname.lastname@example.org or 807-7761 . On Twitter @dgaona13.