It's not over yet.
Joe English has one more game to coach after his Chaparral Firebirds defeated Tucson Catalina Foothills, 57-53, Tuesday night in a 4A girls state basketball semifinal.
The Firebirds close out their season and English ends his career at 5:30 p.m. Monday when Chaparral (26-7) meets Phoenix Thunderbird for the 4A state championship at America West Arena.
Chaparral will be going after its second championship in the last three years.
English is OK with retiring after 25 years as coach, but his players say they will certainly miss him.
"He's done so much for us,'' senior Rachel Geller said.
"I'm ready to be done,'' English said. "I'm not going to cry or anything.''
It was Geller, the Firebirds’ only senior, who made sure English had one more game to coach. The East Sky Region's player of the year scored 14 of her 16 points in the second half.
With her team leading 25-23 at the half, Geller knew she had to step up her game. She was a sophomore on the Firebirds’ 2001 title team and was the only player English had with any experience playing in the Arena.
"I knew I needed to help my team more because I have experience,'' Geller said. "I didn't want this to be our last game.''
With the Firebirds leading by just two points in the final three minutes, Geller scored a key basket after a perfect pass from Jackie Layton. Again leading by two points, Geller made two free throws to put Chaparral ahead by four points.
She and Layton then made 1-of-2 free throws each in the final 30 seconds to seal the victory.
It was freshman center Alex Russell who ignited the Firebirds offense early. She scored a career-high 17 points and had seven rebounds. Although Chaparral never trailed after the first quarter, it was never able to stretch a lead into double-digits.
"They played hard to stay close and we played kind of stupid. That's not the way we play. Usually we're pretty deliberate,'' English said. "We do simple things. I'm not very smart.''
Catalina Foothills (21-10) trailed by nine points early in the fourth quarter, but three straight 3-pointers, two by sophomore Kate Engelbrecht and one by sophomore Echo Fallon, got the Falcons to within two points at 44-42. Engelbrecht, who led all scorers with 22 points, tied the score on Catalina Foothills' next possession.
"We didn't help on defense and that is partly my fault,'' Geller said.
Fallon added 14 for the Falcons.
PHOENIX THUNDERBIRD 54, GLENDALE CACTUS 40
In a big upset, the 4A defending girls state champion Chiefs got 18 points from Cherlanda Franklin to knock off the previously unbeaten Cobras.
Thunderbird (29-2) had lost to Cactus (29-1), 54-40, during the regular season. This time, Cactus was without guard Jamie Nesbit, who tore a knee ligament Feb. 14. Nesbit, a junior, passed the 1,000-point career total this season.
Thunderbird took control by outscoring Cactus 24-6 in the second quarter.
Ashley Sours led Cactus with nine points.