Prep Charter captures first Public girls’ title

Prep Charter won their first Public League girls' basketball championship. (Michael S. Wirtz/Staff Photographer)

When it comes to shopping for her beloved sneakers, Prep Charter's Kahleah Copper says it's about quality, not quantity.

"Yeah, I don't have a lot," she said. "But I'm pretty particular about the ones I do get. I want to feel and look good in them."

Saturday at Temple's Liacouras Center, Copper, wearing sneakers with eye-catching, neon green-colored soles, scored 15 of her game-high 19 points in the last 13 minutes as the Huskies raced past Central, 49-39, for their first Public League girls' basketball championship.

Copper, a 6-foot-2 junior averaging 15 points and 20 rebounds, has received heavy interest from pretty much every Big East school but Connecticut, as well as Miami, Northwestern, and Penn State.

"It's nice to be getting that kind of attention," she said, "but there's also a feeling of pressure. It's hard for me to tell any coach or school that I'm not interested. I'm too nice. It's hard for me to say no to people."

Prep Charter (23-1) reached the top after finishing runner-up to Central (17-7) in each of the last two seasons. The Lancers were trying for their ninth Public League title in the last 10 years.

"We played a pretty good nonleague schedule," sixth-year Huskies coach Paul Rieser said. "But no one fights with us on the floor like Central does. For my kids to get over that hump and beat them, it's pretty special."

Copper, a 16-year-old who lives near Susquehanna Avenue and Broad Street in North Philly, came to Prep Charter this year from Girard College. She plays AAU ball for the New York Gauchos.

"She's the best rebounder I've ever seen," said Rieser, who coached a great one, as an assistant to Pete Merlino, in former Franklin Learning Center star Tyrone Weeks (1989-93). "She's a human pogo stick - up and down, up and down."

Against Central, which struggled mightily with Prep Charter's all-out defensive pressure, senior captains Tiffany Johnson (nine points), Nydeera Lee (seven), and Bria Young (two) combined for 18 points.

In the third quarter, Copper's bucket off a nifty dish from Lee put the Huskies in front for good, 24-22. An 8-0 run at the start of the fourth quarter made it 43-25.

"They were more talented and quicker than us," Lancers interim coach Vince Parziale said. "They beat us to the ball, got a lot of second shots."

Johnson, bound for Drexel, is the Markward Club's Public League player of the year; Young is being recruited by lower-level Division I schools, including St. Francis (Pa.); and Lee is hearing from Division II programs.

Central's Najah Jacobs, a senior guard headed for Philadelphia University, scored 10 of her 17 points in the last five minutes.

Prep Charter   8 12 15 14 – 49

Central   9 8 8 14 – 39

PC: Bria Young 2, Nydeera Lee 7, Kahleah Copper 19, Tiffany Johnson 9, Indiah Cauley 7, Yasmine Montgomery 5.

C: Taylor Phillips 2, Najah Jacobs 17, Isabella Ross 12, Brittany Wilson 8.


Contact staff writer Rick O'Brien at 610-313-8019 or