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Shafter Coach Pennell says goodbye to 'his girls'

Shafter High girls basketball Coach Shawn Pennell has retired after 20 seasons at the helm, completing a transformation that took the Lady Generals from the bottom of the SSL to Central Section supremacy.

Pennell ended his career a few weeks ago when the Lady Generals made it to the Central Section Division III semifinals and lost a tough game to the eventual Regional Champions, the Bakersfield Christian Eagles. The team won their own basketball tournament and also finished in third place in the Arvin Holiday Showcase with a win over Centennial, which left them at the end of the season ranked in the top 10 in the entire section.

"This is also with a fairly young team, so this group could be looking at really big things before they are done," Pennell said.

The squad includes only four seniors, with six sophomores, a junior and a freshman. The starting lineup is three sophomores, a freshman and a junior.

To see the Lady Generals in the playoffs of the Division III is an outstanding accomplishment in itself, considering how far the squad has come. Pennell and his coaching staff have built a program that should keep up the excellence for years, with a junior varsity team and a freshman team that both went through the SSL season undefeated.

The squad have been one of the best teams in the SSL for the past few seasons, with a co-championship last year, sharing the title with McFarland.

One of the "benefits" of having such success, though, is the system that the CIF has in place that places teams in different divisions when it comes playoff time.

With the success that the Lady Generals had, the CIF has "rewarded" them with placing them in with teams two and three times their size. The past couple of years the Lady Generals have been up against powerhouses such as Bakersfield High School and Frontier. But Shafter is getting better for the experience and have been improving their records each year and have come to be viewed at the same level as those teams that they used to look up at in the rankings.

Pennell said that he will always love his girls and that is what they will always be, as he describes them, "his girls."

"These girls have been a joy to coach, and I can't wait for them to reach their potential."


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