KEARNEY, Neb. — Lincoln Pius X’s Kolbe Rada didn’t let the atmosphere get him on Thursday against Kearney in a rematch of the Heartland Athletic Conference tournament championship played at Pius last week.

Rada scored a game-high 22 points, 11 of which came in a 23-point outburst in the fourth quarter, to help Pius pull away from Kearney 63-47.

Pius, ranked third in the Top 10, improves to 13-1 this season.

“The environment really helped a lot of that,” Pius coach Brian Spicka said of the fourth-quarter performance. “We called a timeout and the place was rocking and we were up only one. ... We were just looking at each other and saying, ‘This is awesome, this is why you want to play basketball.’ They’re kids that love to play together and they are kids that love to play in environments like this.”

Kearney had its chances, especially at the beginning of the fourth quarter.

The Bearcats opened the quarter with a chance to take the lead for the first time since the opening minutes when they led 7-6. But the Bearcats turned the ball over, and Pius capitalized and went on a 10-2 run.

“When we have a chance to take the lead in third quarter, we’ve got to finish plays in transition,” Kearney coach Drake Beranek said. “We take a lead with how ruckus our crowd was, that thing is over. Momentum in basketball is that valuable. Every possession matters.”

One of the biggest differences this time around was the defense both teams play on their respective star players.

In the first matchup, Lincoln Pius X’s Charlie Easley and Kearney’s Shiloh Robinson had a field day. Easley scored a game-high 33, while Robinson poured in 29 and grabbed 13 rebounds.

Spicka, whose team won last week’s meeting 73-69, felt his team did a better job defending Robinson, a Liberty commit, this time around. Robinson finished with 15 points.

“We challenged our guys to play a little more physical in the post. We challenged our guys to have really, really good ball pressure. ... You’re not going to be able to guard Shiloh,” Spicka said.

Both teams struggled to get going early in the game.

The Thunderbolts seemed to be able to get over their cold start with a 6-0 run spurred by Easley, giving Pius a 13-7 advantage midway through the first quarter. Easley finished with 17 points.

The Bearcats stormed back to tie the game with three transition layups, capped by a hustle play from Jack Johnson.

Lincoln Pius X and Kearney are back in action Saturday.

The Bearcats will travel to Lincoln Southwest, while the Thunderbolts will travel to Norfolk.

Lincoln Pius X (13-1)......15 12 13 23—63

At Kearney (11-4)............13 11 15 8—47

LPX: Mitchell Sebek 13, Austin Jablonski 7, Kolbe Rada 22, Charlie Easley 17, Holton Harman 4.

K: Carson Schwarz 2, Seth Stroh 11, Jaden Engen 9, Colin Murray 3, Shiloh Robinson 15, Jack Johnson 3.

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