For the past three years, the South Liberty Baptist Academy boys basketball team netted the Athletics for Christian Education League championship. After losing four starters last season, some fans were not even sure the Pioneers would make it to this year’s championship game, much less win the title for a fourth straight season.

After a 12-1 season, South Liberty showed up at Lisbon Falls Baptist Church Saturday afternoon with high hopes of a fourth consecutive title. However, after four quarters the Pioneers could not quite nab the title as they fought Calvary Christian Academy Swordsmen of Turner in a 55-47 loss.

“[It was a] great year with the guys,” said South Liberty coach Josh Garnett. “It’s a whole new team from last year. A bunch of guys we just threw together and we didn’t expect them to get here.”

South Liberty trailed 16-11 after the first quarter, but lifted itself to 27-25 cushion by halftime. At the end of the third stanza, the Pioneers led 39-37.

Burt Ludwig keyed the Pioneers with 27 points, followed by Ryan Turffs with nine; Will Daggett, five; Ben Daggett, four; and Joseph Curtis, two.

Also, Ludwig (11 rebounds, 4 3-pointers), Ben Daggett (10 rebounds), Turffs (5 rebounds), Elijah Curtis (9 rebounds), Joseph Curtis (8 rebounds) and Will Daggett (5 rebounds) were statistical leaders.

Dan Heuveline paced Calvary with 18 points, followed by Mark Fortin with 11. Also, Kyle Hewitt had 10 points; Aaron Frost and Steve Olinger, eight each; and Blaine Heikkinen, two.

Calvary finished with 38 rebounds.

South Liberty made 7-of-13 free throws (54 percent) and Calvary 9-of-22 (41 percent).

The two teams came out of the gate with a head-to-head battle until the fourth quarter. Then, Calvary outscored its opponent 18-8 as the Swordsmen raced toward their title.

“We knew that they liked to score in the paint and [we] couldn’t stop them in the paint,” Garnett said. “We weren’t stealing it out of the paint. We were letting them drive up to the basket and get easy looks at the basket.”

Garnett said his team began the season with only two returning starters, Ludwig and Ben Daggett, which made for a challenging year with lots of youth an inxperience.

“It’s a group of guys that had no chemistry and as the year went on they got better and better,” Garnett said.

Early on Calvary delivered the Pioneers only loss and “we kept telling ourselves, ‘We are going to get better by the time we get to them again’ and we didn’t expect them to play like they did,” Garnett said.

This was Ludwig’s fourth time in the championships and he was disappointed about the loss.

“That would have been all my years in high school I would have won,” he said. “That would have been four in a row for our school. But we played [well] so we had a good season overall.”

According to Ludwig, the rest of the team felt much the same. However, there is always next year.

“[The other players] are pretty disappointed because this is pretty much a lot of their first championship games,” he said, “so they are pretty bummed out about it and, a lot of them, they have a new year next year, so good luck to them.”

Village NetMedia Sports Reporter Frederick Freudenberger can be reached at 207-594-4401 or by e-mail at fritz@villagesoup.com.