Mountaineers seek extended March run
IRON MOUNTAIN — Iron Mountain’s boys basketball regular season schedule ends on Feb. 27.
The Mountaineers are assured of at least one game in March, a district test in their own gym. They’d like more.
“Winning the conference is a goal, but more importantly we want to play as much basketball in March that we can,” said Mountaineers coach Bucky Johnson. “That is what we are really gunning for.”
The Mountaineers, when healthy, appear capable of at least matching last year’s run to the regional finals. They finished up 20-4 overall and 9-3 in the Mid-Peninsula Conference.
However, graduation trimmed Carson Wonders, an all-state and UP Player of the Year. He also wound up as Iron Mountain High School’s all-time leading scorer.
“He did a lot for our team last year,” Johnson said. “You can’t replace a player like Carson. He carried us to a great season, no doubt about that.”
The Mountaineers also graduated starter starter Josh Tucker and sixth-man Riley Caudell.
“They played important roles for our team last year and will be missed,” Johnson said.
The Mountaineers do return three starters in sophomore point guard Marcus Johnson, junior forward-guard Jaden Vicenzi and junior forward Charlie Gerhard. Johnson was an All-MPC first-teamer as a freshman. Vicenzi made the MPC all-defensive team.
“We have a very young team this year that has experience,” said Johnson, noting the returning starters have 24 games of varsity experience.
The Mountaineers also have sophomore forward Tony Feira and freshman Foster Wonders, neither with varsity experience. Wonders has yet to practice, recovering from a stress fracture in his foot.
“He will most likely return to practice in a couple of weeks and we will see when he is game ready,” Johnson said of Wonders, who has already received a scholarship offer from Northern Michigan.
Jacob Tucker, a 6-foot-3 senior, is another starter.
“We are looking for him to step up and fill a role,” said Johnson, assisted by UP Hall of Famer Rick Olds, Robin Marttila (junior varsity) and Dale Powell (freshmen).
Coming off the bench will be seniors Michael Kulas and Zack Celello.
“Each of those three seniors will play an important role for the success of our team,” Johnson said. “All 13 players on our roster attended camps this summer. They enjoyed some success and had a good time. When we get all of our players healthy this team will be fun to watch.”
Iron Mountain hosts MPC opponent Manistique on Tuesday to begin the season.
“For the most part, the MPC will be a dogfight,” Johnson said. “Almost every team in the conference will be better this year. Many teams return a lot of starters from last year.”
MPC newcomer Gladstone is a “solid team” along with Ishpeming and Westwood.
“Our non-conference schedule is tough, too,” said Johnson, noting Norway (twice), Kingsford (twice), Escanaba, West Iron County and Menominee. “Those teams could be really good, too.”
The talented and experienced Mountaineers will contend.
“They have spent a ton of time playing the game and have a passion for it,” Johnson said. “They work really hard in the off-season and want to be really good. They also work hard in practice and have fun together.”
Roster (* indicates letter-winner):
SENIOR — Michael Kulas, guard, 5-10; Zach Celello, guard, 5-11; Evan Geronimi, forward, 5-11; Jacob Tucker, forward, 6-3; Tony Feira, forward, 6-3; Ben Diercks, forward, 6-1
JUNIOR — Owen Caudell, guard, 6-0; Adrian Barraza, guard, 5-7; Teagan Erickson, forward, 6-4; Jaden Vicenzi, forward-guard, 6-2; Charlie Gerhard, forward, 6-3
SOPHOMORE — Marcus Johnson, guard, 5-10
FRESHMAN — Foster Wonders, guard-forward, 6-4