The Shawnee State University women's basketball team and coaches celebrate their fourth straight Mid-South Conference Tournament Championship. (Photo courtesy of Shawnee State University)
The Shawnee State University women's basketball team and coaches celebrate their fourth straight Mid-South Conference Tournament Championship. (Photo courtesy of Shawnee State University)
The Shawnee State University Bears women's basketball team won their fourth straight Mid-South Conference Tournament Championship on Sunday, March 4, punching their ticket to Billings with an 81-79 win over No. 3 Campbellsville at the East Kentucky Expo Center.

The team, ranked No. 1 in the NAIA Coaches' Poll, includes 2015 McClain High School graduate Shania Massie.



The Bears and Tigers played a tight game from the opening tip, with Campbellsville leading after one quarter. Jordan Doram picked up where she left off against Lindsey Wilson, opening the scoring for the Tigers, but Hannah Miller (junior/Coal Grove) hit right back with a three.

Neither team could get much going offensively in the first as the quarter ground into a defensive struggle. SSU shot 3-12 from the field. A pair of Lydia Poe (junior/Jackson) free throws cut Campbellsville's lead to 11-9 late in the period, but Caitlin Hall hit a layup as time expired in the quarter to put CU up 13-9 after one.

Shawnee State rallied in the second quarter to take the lead. The Bears began the quarter on an 8-0 run, capped by a make in the post from Madison Ridout (senior/Jackson) to take a 17-13 lead. Campbellsville’s Madison Stewart hit on back-to-back possessions to tie the game back up, but a Bailey Cummins (sophomore/Brooksville, Ky.) three gave SSU back the lead.

Campbellsville rallied by the media timeout, with Hall's three putting the Tigers back up 26-25, but again Shawnee State responded, this time through a three by Ashton Lovely (junior/Jamestown) to re-take the lead. SSU fended off Campbellsville for the rest of the half, and Ridout's bucket with 11 seconds to go gave Shawnee State a 37-31 lead at the half.

Campbellsville cut into the Shawnee State lead in the third quarter. Cummins hit a three early to extend SSU's lead to seven, and Lovely's three with 6:04 to go in the period gave SSU a 47-39 lead, but Campbellsville rallied. Trailing 51-44, Madison Faulkner scored two baskets to cut the lead to three. Savannah Gregory split a pair of free throws to cut the lead to two.

After a Ridout basket, Stewart hit on the other end to again cut the lead to two. Ridout again hit a shot late in the period, and her late basket in the paint put the Bears up 55-51 after three.

Shawnee State asserted themselves early in the fourth quarter. An early 9-3 run for the Bears saw them take a 64-54 lead, capped by a made shot by Cummins. However, Campbellsville turned around to go on an 8-0 run of their own to cut the lead to 64-62, with Madison Clements' three capping the run. Ridout would hit a three-point play to make the lead five again, but Clements hit another three to reduce the lead to two again.

Shania Massie (junior/Greenfield) hit a lay-in on the other end, but again Campbellsville rallied, this time to take the lead. Clements was fouled during a 3-pointer attempt and hit all three shots to reduce the lead to one. Hall then hit a three of her own to give Campbellsville a 71-69 lead with 3:48 to go.

However, Shawnee State responded. Lovely immediately gave SSU back the lead with a deep three to put the Bears up 72-71. Lovely was fouled two possessions later on a three-point attempt and hit all three shots to give the Bears a 75-71 lead. Poe extended that lead out to five, splitting a pair of foul shots and giving SSU a 76-71 lead.

Campbellsville’s Doram hit in the post with 2:19 to go to cut the SSU lead to three, then again just 15 seconds later to reduce the lead to one. Miller made a three to push SSU's lead back to 79-75 with less than a minute to go, but Doram capitalized on a second-chance opportunity to cut the lead to two. With 12 seconds remaining, Clements tied the game at 79-79 with a lay-in.

However, just moments later, Shawnee State stole the game late. Miller was fouled with 0.4 seconds on the clock, putting the Mid-South Conference's best free-throw shooter at the line. Miller drained both foul shots, giving Shawnee State an 81-79 lead.

Madison Ridout and Bailey Cummins both had 18 points to lead the way for SSU. Hannah Miller added 14, and Ashton Lovely chipped in 12 for the Bears. SSU shot 54 percent for the game and were 50 percent from 3-point range.

The win improves Shawnee State to 30-3 on the season, ensuring the Bears win 30 games for the second season in a row. Campbellsville falls to 28-5. The Bears are now 3-0 against Campbellsville this season and lead the all-time series 17-13.

Sunday's win also has massive implications for Shawnee State on the national stage. The win clinches Shawnee State the Mid-South Conference's automatic bid to the NAIA Division I Women's Basketball National Tournament, presented by Wells Fargo. SSU, who are currently ranked No. 1 in the NAIA Coaches' Poll, will look to clinch the No. 1 overall seed in the tournament, to be held in Billings, Mont.

Shawnee State will find out their NAIA Tournament destiny on Wednesday, March 7 when the NAIA broadcasts the 2018 NAIA Division I Women's Basketball Selection Show. You can join the Bears at Buffalo Wild Wings for the selection show, which airs at 6 p.m. Eastern.