IRON MOUNTAIN, Mich. (WJMN) – The Iron Mountain Mountaineers found themselves at the peak of the mountain last season appearing in the Division 3 state title game.

“We had a wonderful experience,” said Bucky Johnson, head coach of Iron Mountain Basketball. “We played 7 basketball games in 17 days. We weren’t in school for any of it so the kids had a really good time. It was a tremendous experience even with the pandemic and we were able to play some really good basketball. It was always been, kind of, like one of my personal dreams to play against Flint-Beecher because they’ve been a perennial power in Division 3 and we were able to do that. We found out what it was like to play against a team that was as good as they were. We played some really good teams going into that. I was just proud of the way they played and it was a lot of fun.”

After some major turnover, The Mountaineers go from one of the most experienced teams to one of the youngest teams in the U.P. this season.

“For the past 7-8 years we’ve had really experienced teams,” said Johnson. “Where we’ve had 7,8,9 seniors and 6-7-8 juniors. We knew we were going to be young coming in and we decided to go this route. Part of it was a number’s issue and part of it was talent. When you’re the varsity coach at the high school you usually try to get the most talented kids on the varsity team first and that’s what we tried to do here this year.”

With the youth, comes growing pains.

“You know, we do have to be patient,” said Johnson. “It’s just working on the little things every day in practice and trying to show improvement. So, that when we do play the more mature teams like the Westwood’s, the Kingsford’s, you know the Menominee’s, if we get there, those other teams are mature teams and we want to compete and give them the best shot we have and let the chips fall where they may.”

Despite an up and down start to the season, Johnson said he’s enjoying the ride.

“My thoughts have been, ‘I’m just going to give these kids everything I have.’ I’m not going to cut corners on them, I’m going to try and coach them the best I can. I’m enjoying it though because we have a great group of kids, I’ll start with that. We have a great coaching staff. You know, we’re going to have our up’s and down’s and our bumps in the road. But, we’re still trying to do the best we can and give the kids everything we have. We’re building. I mean, we’re building for the future, but that doesn’t mean we’re not trying to win the games at hand. We’re going to strive to be our best and get as good as we’re going to get.”

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