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Bay City Western could bank on a spark from their super sixth man

AUBURN, Mich. – Gage Coonan started every game on the bench.

But that doesn’t mean he wasn’t starting five with dignity.

The second-year guard was the instant igniter for Bay City Western, bringing new fire to the game when called up as a super sixth man.

“He deserved to be a starter, but he was our best sixth man,” Western coach DeMario Walker said. “It was strategic not to start him because we needed someone to come off the bench and give us a spark. He would come in two or three 3-pointers and take us forward.

Coonan saved his best game for his last game, breaking away for a 28-point performance in Western’s 65-50 loss to Mount Pleasant. This effort earned Coonan MLive Bay City Athlete of the Week in an online reader poll.

He won 14,664 votes, or 38.9% of the 37,681 votes cast. Vinnie Frank of Tawas Area, Taylee Nadolski of Bay City Central, Addison Vallad of Standish-Sterling and Hunter Jatczak of Essexville Garber also had strong support in the poll.

Coonan came to the fore after a performance that sent him into the offseason on a high note.

Although he didn’t start, he established himself as one of Western’s most vital figures on the court. He was second on the team with an 8.9 average during the regular season and led Bay County in free throw percentage at .850.

Western’s best 3-point shooter, he showed his skills – and offered a glimpse of things to come in the years to come – by knocking down seven triples against Mount Pleasant.

“He’s one of the hardest-working kids I’ve ever coached,” Walker said. “Pre-season, playoffs and during the season, he does things to improve.

“He will go to the Sports Zone before a game and throw shots. He’s a kid who’s going to do 500 punches a day and then go back and do it again. Kobe Bryant said that instead of waking up at 10 a.m., you should wake up at 6 a.m. to exercise more. It’s Gage, right there.

Standing around 5-foot-7, Coonan brings a competitive spirit to the court that helps players excel at any height. His uncompromising attitude on defense helps make him an impact player at both ends of the court – and the kind of player the Warriors can grow with over the next two seasons.

“He and (his fellow sophomore Kaeson Frost) would protect themselves in practice and they would be super aggressive,” Walker said. “Sometimes that would be a good thing and sometimes that would be a bad thing. They are best friends but they are very competitive. And Gage wouldn’t back down.

Coonan, Frost, Joseph Decuf and Luke Failing have given Western four sophomores on the varsity roster this season, which promises the program good things to come. And whether Coonan will be in the starting lineup or entering as the sixth man, the Warriors know they can count on his effort and energy.

“We didn’t know where he would be at the start of the season,” Walker said. “But he has proven himself. He has definitely proven himself.

MLive player surveys are non-scientific endeavors, designed to promote fun, fandom and discussion. Winners do not receive any prizes and results do not affect post-season awards.

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