The ladies lacing up their basketball sneakers for Prep Charter High School, 1928 Point Breeze Ave., must adjust to the role of the hunted this season. The reigning Public League champions, the West Passyunk-based wizards appear equipped to frustrate foes again, as they entered yesterday’s league home clash against University City, which started after press time, with a 6-1 record. Their triumphs include four wins in holiday tournaments, with the victories further proving coach Paul Rieser’s ability to retool his rosters after losing stars to graduation.
Four such players, including Tiffany Johnson, the Markward Club’s Public League Player of the Year, departed in June after guiding the Huskies to 25 wins from 28 games. Their best conquest came Feb. 26 when they exacted revenge for two title game losses by dumping Central, 49-39, at Temple University’s Liacouras Center. Runner-up designation in the District 12 Class AAA City championship and a semifinal run in the PIAA Class AAA tournament rounded out the campaign.
“Last year was remarkable but we are looking to top it,” Rieser said via phone Dec. 20 from Lake Buena Vista, Fla., where his charges captured the KSA Tournament.
They could have had a miserable stay if not for second-half heroics Dec. 19 in their opening tilt against Kentucky’s Anderson County. The Huskies trailed 20-7 after the first quarter, with their defense yielding more points in eight minutes than they had in their first two contests, Dec. 12’s 62-18 road annihilation of Benjamin Franklin and Dec. 16’s 57-13 home slaughter of Southern, 2101 S. Broad St.
They escaped with a 55-50 win, as forward and Rutgers University signee Kahleah Copper scored 22 points and grabbed 13 rebounds. While her senior leadership proved vital, the composure of freshman guard Ciani Cryor helped Rieser to know his youth movement will pay continuous dividends. The Southwest Philadelphia resident dealt out eight assists and amassed as many steals.
“That game stands out,” she said before Tuesday’s practice. “It helped us come together as a young team.”
Cryor and North Philadelphia’s Copper, the most valuable player of the Public League title game, led the destruction of Maryland’s Annapolis Christian Charter the next day. Copper registered 16 points and 11 rebounds, and Cryor added 11 points in a 53-25 win.
The title duel against Ohio’s Lancaster High School let the Huskies show they are far more than a two-trick pony. Copper performed exceptionally with 21 points and 12 rebounds, tallies that won her the MVP, and Cryor played airtight defense, with sophomores India Cauley and Ciera Nimmons creating a quartet of problems. A Southwest dweller, guard/forward Cauley dropped 11 points and 10 rebounds, with Northeast’s Nimmons, another guard, knocking down four three-pointers in the 58-47 game.
“We are looking to become a very good team,” Cauley said.
The program’s annals lured her and Nimmons, who lauded Rieser for his guidance. The youngsters needed to adapt to time away from their leader in their next jaunt to the Wildwoods Convention Center for the Boardwalk Classic. Rieser’s father-in-law died Dec. 26, so second-year assistant Ashley Logue led the sharpshooters.
“We don’t want to dwell on our loss,” Nimmons said of Dec. 28’s 52-51 setback against Washington Township.
She deposited 13 points while Copper compiled a double-double of 34 points and 22 rebounds. Copper’s failed game-winning shot attempt placed the Huskies in Dec. 29’s consolation game against Berks Catholic. The nail-biter netted them a 71-70 victory, with Copper notching 26 points while Nimmons and Cryor contributed 18 points apiece.
“The team seems hungrier this year,” Logue said. “We have unfinished business.”
The treatment of Lower Moyamensing’s Rams was harsher, as the Huskies blanked their visitors in the first and final frames. “We respect Public League opposition greatly, but we are looking forward to later in the year,” Logue said.
Copper, who committed to Rutgers, has aimed to bolster last year’s averages of 17.5 points and 14.3 rebounds. She has made her teammates fortune seekers, as Tuesday’s pre-practice discussions centered on peaking in February and March.
“We are maturing on and off the court,” Nimmons, said of finding enough resolve to acquire their ultimate goal — the state crown.
A female Nostradamus, Logue foresees tussling with Warminster’s Archbishop Wood shortly before the state playoffs for the City championship. The parochial players denied the Huskies the local title March 4 with a 44-34 win and again bewildered them March 23, inflicting a 41-27 defeat in the state bracket.
Logue expects to face Wood at least once yet would not mind giving their nemesis multiple losses. The players are eagerness to battle Cardinal O’Hara Jan. 29, a game that could serve as a warm-up for any matchup with Wood, as the Springfield school enjoys stretching the court, too. Regardless of the competition, Cryor enjoyed being the Huskies’ spokesperson Tuesday.
“We want to win states,” she said. “We have the drive to do it this year.”
Contact Staff Writer Joseph Myers at firstname.lastname@example.org or ext. 124.