FRANKFORT — No drama about which team from the Mid-South Conference would qualify for the women's NAIA national basketball tournament.
As regular-season champion, Campbellsville already had an automatic berth before Sunday's MSC Tournament title game in the Frankfort Convention Center.
As the top-seeded team (No. 2) left in the tournament besides Campbellsville, Shawnee State also was guaranteed a trip to nationals.
Instead of a blah championship game, though, Campbellsville used a 15-0 run to come from behind in the last seven minutes and claim a 72-58 victory.
"Oh, we wanted it more than anything," said Whitney Ballinger, the reigning National Player of the Year. "It's a great comfort to me. It's awesome to be regular-season champs but, to win the tournament, it's four hard days. You're fighting every day. It's just a battle and you just want to finish on top."
The Tigers, in the title game for the third year in a row, won for the first time since 2004.
Ranked No. 4 nationally, they will take a 28-3 record and a 13-game winning streak into the national tournament, March 16-22 at Jackson, Tenn.
Campbellsville will be making its 19th appearance in the national tournament. The first 16 came with Donna Wise as coach. This will be the third with Coach Ginger Colvin.
Ballinger, a 6-foot-3 senior from Carrollton, totaled 28 points, five rebounds and three blocks Sunday.
She surpassed 2,000 career points when she converted a three-point play in the first half to put the Tigers on top 23-22. She is the first Campbellsville player to reach 2,000 points, 1,000 rebounds and 300 blocks in a career.
"That's awesome and I can't believe it," she said. "It means the world to me, to be able to do that with the university that I've done it with, but this tournament, this win, means more to me than any individual stat will ever."
Melly Heaton added 13 points for the winners. Courtney Clifton and Megan Isaacs scored 10 each with Isaacs also grabbing 10 rebounds and handing out four assists.
"We have six seniors," Colvin said, "so the fact that we've been here for three years and weren't able to get the title — last year, our only conference loss was in the finals — they wanted it. ... We battled defensively and just did a great job down the stretch. Of course, when you have the national player of the year, it helps."
The seniors — Ballinger, Heaton, Courtney Danis, T.J. Thomas, Alexia Williams and Millie Deason — have a school-record win total for a class, now standing at 106-26.
Jill Cropper led Shawnee with 12 points and six rebounds. Catrice Mitchell had 10 points and seven boards before fouling out.
Campbellsville led 39-35 at halftime and scored the first three points of the second half.
Shawnee (24-9) outscored the Tigers 15-7 over the next 71/2 minutes to take a 50-49 lead.
The Bears led 54-50 when Alex Pohl scored from close range with 7:15 left.
Campbellsville answered the alarm bell with a 15-point flurry.
Isaacs scored on a put-back, McKenzie Lee sank a pair of free throws and Heaton drained a three-pointer to give the Tigers a 57-54 lead.
Ballinger scored the next eight points, all on powerful moves in the low post.
Tigers 65, Bears 54, 1:56 left to play.
Shawnee never came closer than seven.
"It's amazing," Ballinger said. "We've been here three years in a row and we know what it feels like to be in that other locker room. ... We're going to enjoy this one."