Like mother, like son: Mishawaka's Pritchett follows in mother's basketball success (2024)

MISHAWAKA — Alicia Harkins was a 5-foot-11 sophom*ore guard for Penn in 1991. She helped the Kingsmen win sectional and regional championships inside North Side Gym in Elkhart.

Thirty-three years later, she’ll watch her son try to replicate similar success in the same gym.

Cooper Pritchett and the rest of his Mishawaka Cavemen teammates seek the program’s first state finals trip on Saturday as part of the Class 4A North semistate tournament. They will look to win the title inside North Side Gym, one of the oldest and biggest high school gyms in the country.

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“This will be the first time I’ve gotten to watch either a team I’ve coached or followed play a tournament game in North Side Gym,” Harkins said. “I think going back in there at tournament time, with the number of fans that will be there, it’s definitely going to be nostalgic.”

Mishawaka (20-7) plays Fort Wayne Wayne (22-3) in the second semifinal contest at 11:45 a.m. No. 1 Fishers (26-1) battles Crown Point (20-5) at 10 a.m in the first semifinal. Winners will play for the championship at 7:30 p.m.

More:It didn't take long for Mishawaka boys basketball's regional trophy to break

“When I saw that we were playing in Elkhart, that got me really excited because it’s only about a 15-minute drive there for us,” Pritchett said. “Just knowing it’s a place where my mom played some big games growing up with huge crowds – now that I have a chance to do that is really cool.”

Harkins was a key player during Penn’s late 1980s and early '90s run of four-straight sectionals and two regional titles, all won inside North Side Gym. Her older sisters, Theresa and Melissa, were also part of the program and were seniors on the 1989 and '91 regional winners, respectively.

Like mother, like son: Mishawaka's Pritchett follows in mother's basketball success (2)

“The best part about it was not just the sheer size of it, but it would be packed,” said Harkins of North Side. “For girls basketball in the ‘90s, that wasn’t a normal occurrence in a high school gym. It was just an electric atmosphere there. It got very loud, which was always fun. You just knew you were playing somewhere special when you went there.”

Harkins has remained in the basketball world for most of her adult life. She was an assistant coach with the Mishawaka girls team from 2012-16 and an assistant at Holy Cross College in the 2016-17 campaign before spending three seasons as the Jimtown girls basketball head coach from 2017-20.

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As Pritchett was growing up, he’d spend several hours in the gym with his mother, developing a similar love for the game as her.

“She was the one that taught me how to play basketball,” Pritchett said. “She would bring me to the gym when she was coaching at Mishawaka; I would be shooting around while they were practicing.”

The apple doesn’t fall far from the tree either, as far as playing styles go.

“I kind of play like her; I play tough, I play hard,” Pritchett said. “That’s what she taught me growing up. She taught me everything I’m doing now.”

Like mother, like son: Mishawaka's Pritchett follows in mother's basketball success (3)

Harkins noted one difference, though.

“He’s definitely aggressive, but I was aggressive and mean,” Harkins said. “I was not nice; there was not an opposing team that liked me ever.”

More:Cooper Pritchett wins Athlete of the Week vote

Pritchett’s toughness was on full display in last week’s regional final against East Chicago Central. Despite being smaller than most of the Cardinals’ players, Pritchett led everyone with nine rebounds. He dove for loose balls and played hard-nosed defense, helping his team win, 68-52, for its first regional championship since 1955.

“I’m always just so proud of the way Cooper plays,” Harkins said. “He’s the kid that is going to sacrifice his body, get on the floor for the ball, get the rebounds and try to be a good leader for his team. It’s truly pride that I feel watching him, and I’m happy because the boys on that team are just wonderful.”

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Mishawaka has a tall task this weekend. Should the Cavemen knock off Wayne, a matchup with No. 1 Fishers likely awaits. They’ll have to lean on the underdog mentality even more to win the program’s first semistate championship.

“We’re just going to have to fight,” Pritchett said. “We need to be who we are and live or die by it. I know I wouldn’t want to be playing with any other five guys on the court than who we have, so we just have to stay with each other and see what happens.”

Like mother, like son: Mishawaka's Pritchett follows in mother's basketball success (2024)


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