New coach Wagner already having positive impact on Panthers

The Mark Wagner era at West Salem began with a bang this week, as his Panthers scored 85 points in their first game.

It’s a fun change for some of these Panther players, because when they were younger, they can remember watching Wagner coach for G-E-T against their older siblings. Now they really enjoy Wagner on their side, in part because Wagner trusts them to have more creative freedom on offense.

“I think we are trying to push the ball more and just be free more–not stay in sets,” guard Carson Koepnick said.

“Wagner has a good way of bringing the team together, getting the best out of us, making us get after it,” junior forward Peter Lattos said. “We’re a lot more aggressive this year. We’re looking to get ahead; we’re not going to let the opponent stick around.”

The Panthers plan to stay aggressive even without some major firepower. Seniors CJ McConkey and Jack Hehli, who were the top two scorers on the team last season, are currently out for a while with injuries. So the new front man for this group is the 6-foot-7 Lattos, who dropped 27 on Tuesday and who teammates say has all the tools of the trade.

“The ball’s a lot more in my hands this year, so I’m getting a lot more opportunities that way,” he said. “My teammates are creating for me really well.”

“He’s very shifty for how big he is,” said Koepnick. “He can make plays, can finish, he can shoot. He’s a great player–I trust everything that he does.”

West Salem next visits Tomah Thursday night.