Mt. Pleasant boys put foot down, set sights on playoff berth

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Wednesday, November 27, 2019 | 3:39 PM


The players are mostly the same, which is what coach Allan Bilinsky is counting on for change.

Entering his second season at the head of Mt. Pleasant’s boys basketball program, he feels the Vikings are ready to put five consecutive losing seasons behind them with their most experienced, longest lineup in years.

“They’ve worked very hard putting in time in the gym, and a lot of our kids were in AAU basketball to get a lot more reps,” Bilinsky said. “I believe we can turn the corner this year, and we can put Mt. Pleasant basketball on the map.”

The Vikings will aim for a winning record and the playoffs after losing only two seniors from last year’s team, Sam Napper and Zak Lucullo.

“I’m very confident we can take a big step forward, because we have so much experience coming back from last year,” junior Tyler Salvatore said. “I definitely think we can compete for a section title.”

Mt. Pleasant would have to go from worst to first for the Section 1-4A championship, which was shared in 2019 by Knoch and Highlands.

“We want to compete with everyone, and we’re sick of only winning a few games a season, missing the playoffs by a wide margin and not even being in the conversation,” Salvatore said. “We definitely have the talent, and we just need to put it together. It’d be disappointing if we fell short of the playoffs. That’s a goal we need to reach.”

The Vikings will be led by four-year starter Jacob Johnson, who has 598 points in his career. He averaged 15 points per game last season.

“Jacob is our leader, and he can do everything,” Bilinsky said. “He can play everywhere from point guard to the five spot. He’ll have that versatile role again.”

Salvatore will be a three-year starter, and Bilinsky called him the team’s “floor general.”

Mt. Pleasant will return a third starter, junior forward Jonas King, who led the Vikings in rebounds last year and averaged 8.0 points per game.

Several players who came off the bench will step into more prominent roles, including 6-foot-6 sophomore Luke Brandner.

“We do expect big things out of him,” Bilinsky said. “He’s a very athletic kid, and he can play guard or forward. He can be a difference maker when he puts his mind to it.”

Junior guard Lucas Toohey led the soccer team in goals and could step into a leadership role for the basketball program, too.

Juniors Jacob Bungard and Nicholas Yurenchko have developed their shots, and seniors Trevor Mason, Gabe Tatters and Justin Dombrosky will also contribute.

“We have eight to 10 guys who have a strong chance to play very well,” Bilinsky said. “We brought almost everyone back. They’re bigger. They’re stronger. They’re more mature and experienced, and that’s the big difference for us this season.”

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