LINCOLN — Kolbe Rada was the set-up man Monday night for Lincoln Pius X’s closer.

Charlie Easley came through by pitching a perfect final inning, er, half. Every one of his eight field-goal tries and eight free throws went in — 26 points.

All were needed from the 6-foot-2 senior, who’s on pace to become the school’s career scoring leader, to turn back Kearney 73-69 in the Heartland Conference final at Pius X’s Flavin Gym.

Easley finished with a career-high 33 points, four more than Kearney’s Shiloh Robinson, as Top 10 No. 3 Pius X (10-1) won a conference tournament for the first time. It joined the HAC this season after 62 years without a conference affiliation.

Kearney was in a quandary on defense after Rada scored all 14 of his points in the first half, making 4 of 6 from 3-point range.

“When he starts making 3s and guys behind (Easley) start making stuff, we have to adjust what we do, and that puts us in a little tougher defensive spots,” Bearcats coach Drake Beranek said. “Easley is able to shake guys 1-on-1, and we can’t offer as much help as we were in the first half.”

Easley, who has a Citadel scholarship offer and a Nebraska walk-on possibility, is six points away from 1,000 in his three years on varsity. He’s third on the school’s career chart, needing 227 points to catch Tom Burt (1987-91) with 1,221.

“Charlie is tremendous,” Pius X coach Brian Spicka said. “He can create shots for himself, create shots for his teammates, plays defense, plays offense, is a leader out there. You can’t say enough about him. And any superlative you can come up with is probably not enough.”

How about perfect?

“He didn’t miss a shot?” Spicka said. “That’s why I’m glad he’s on my team. He makes me look really, really smart, doesn’t he?”

Easley said he was surprised by the perfect shooting.

“Things were falling, that’s all.”

Pius was on the verge of breaking the game open in the third quarter, doubling its seven-point lead at the half to 47-33 as Easley had 11 of the 14 points and an assist on Mitchell Sebek’s 3 while forcing Beranek into two timeouts.

Kearney showed grit and started finding Robinson again after he had only two shots and two points in the second quarter. He was 7 for 7 with a free throw for a 15-point final quarter as he finished with 29 points and 13 rebounds. Pius X had 13 boards as a team.

Robinson’s work also opened up the outside as the No. 4 Bearcats (10-3) made four 3s in the fourth quarter. Two were from Colin Murray, who had 17 points after scoring only 15 in his past five games.

“We said in every timeout and every huddle that (Kearney) is not going away, that we have to keep chipping away at them and try to finish them off,” Spicka said. “We barely did.”

Kearney made it 71-69 on a Robinson slam with 23 seconds left. The Bearcats nearly got a 10-second call, but Pius got the timeout in the backcourt. Easley made two free throws and Kearney got off only a 3-point try that Holton Harman grabbed at game’s end.

The teams play again Jan. 17, a Thursday, in Kearney. Getting the validation win won’t be easy for Pius X, not with the Bearcats’ home-court advantage. Nor should Easley be expected again to shoot like that.

“We have to do a lot of things,” Spicka said. “Not let Shiloh score so many points, not let Murray have so many open shots, not let (Carson) Schwarz and (Seth) Stroh have really good nights.

“And hope maybe there’s a flu bug that hits them (laughs), I don’t know. But they’re a great team and it’s going to be a battle again at their place.”

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Kearney (10-3).......11 15 16 27—69

At Lincoln Pius X (10-1)......17  16  17  23—73

K: Shiloh Robinson 29, Colin Murray 17, Seth Stroh 12, Carson Schwarz 6, Jack Johnson 3.

LPX: Charlie Easley 33, Kolbe Rada 14, Mitchell Sebek 14, Austin Jablonski 6. Holton Harman 6.

Reporter - High school sports

Stu is The World-Herald's lead writer for high school sports and for golf. Follow him on Twitter @stuOWH. Phone: 402-444-1041.

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