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