Copper, Prep Charter turn back Villa Maria

Posted: March 18, 2012

Before the second half of Saturday's state quarterfinal, Prep Charter point guard Ciani Cryor told coach Paul Rieser what any point guard would tell her coach.

"Coach, I'm trying to share the ball," Cryor said as the two walked down the Norristown High School stairs leading from the locker room to the court.

"To [heck] with that," Rieser responded.

Rieser knew exactly where the ball needed to go: into the hands of all-American guard Kahleah Copper. The Huskies fed her the ball just enough, as the 6-foot-2 senior scored 17 of her 29 points after the break in a tense, 53-50 victory over Villa Maria in the PIAA Class AAA playoffs.

Prep Charter (28-3) survived when Hurricanes forward Jesse Carlin's buzzer-beating, three-point attempt fell short, setting up a Wednesday night semifinal against Lancaster Catholic.

After a seesaw first half that ended with the score 24-24, Rieser made sure his players knew they had to pound the ball to Copper on isolation after isolation if they hoped to win.

Villa Maria (25-5) forced Prep Charter into 18 turnovers and dominated the offensive glass, allowing the Hurricanes to control the action despite shooting just 35 percent.

But the Huskies always found a near-automatic two points in the sure-handed Copper, the talented-yet-timid leader of a young team that struggled to settle down.

"My adrenaline was flowing, but I knew I had to play smart," Copper said. "I had to keep my teammates involved because they were getting down on themselves."

In the game's pivotal moments, Copper's teammates delivered. Cryor, a freshman, swished two free throws with 24 seconds left to put Prep Charter up, 52-48.

Villa guard Lisa Mirarchi, (16 points) responded with a drive into the lane that led to two free throws.

When the Huskies beat the ensuing press, the ball wound up in the hands of little-used freshman Lorna Caesar, "probably our least talented foul shooter," Rieser said.

Caesar sank her first foul shot before missing the second, forcing the Hurricanes to launch a desperation three that grazed the front rim.

Prep Charter 12 12 11 18 – 53

Villa Maria 15 9 13 13 – 50

PC: Ciani Cryor 10, Kahleah Copper 29, Hannah Timmons 2, Indiah Cauley 5, Ciera Nimmons 6, Lorna Caesar 1.

VM: Lisa Mirarchi 16, Kellie O'Rourke 9, Maddie Joyce 13, Maddie McTigue 6, Kelly Anthony 2, Molly Namiotka 2, Kristen Walheim 2.

Contact Brian Kotloff


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