MOUNT PLEASANT — Heck yes, Steve Jaskulske was nervous.
As vaunted as his Case High School boys basketball team is, the veteran coach admitted Horlick was a source of deep concern during a WIAA Division 1 regional championship Saturday afternoon in Case’s fieldhouse.
But after a few halftime adjustments and a 27-10 third quarter, the Eagles pulled away for a 75-60 victory over the Rebels.
It was the 16th straight victory for Case (20-3) since a 76-71 loss to Whitefish Bay Dec. 27. The Eagles advance to a 7 p.m. sectional semifinal Thursday at Oak Creek against West Allis Central, a 84-82 winner over Milwaukee Hamilton.
Horlick (14-10), which got a game-high 24 points from Rickey Neal Jr., had every intention of pulling off the upset. Determined to slow down Case with a 2-3 zone, the Rebels stuck with Case in the first half and trailed 29-28 at halftime behind 12 points from Neal.
“Yes, I was nervous,” Jaskulske conceded. “Horlick came to play and we were just flat. Horlick hit some tough shots and Jason (Treutelaar) is a heck of a coach. He had his guys ready to play, they’ve got a lot of seniors on that team and, heck yeah, we were concerned.”
Still, Jaskulske kept an even keel at halftime, making some adjustments after consulting with his staff. Darion King was switched to Neal. David Clark was moved to Andre Barry. And standout guard D’Angelo Jackson, a supreme ball distributor who finished with seven assists Saturday, was moved on top to help push the action.
And then the real Eagles stepped out. James Trice, who underwent surgery for a torn ACL in his right knee last summer, scored 12 of his team-high 16 points in the third quarter as Case opened a 56-38 lead going into the final eight minutes.
“We just had to do what we had to do in the third quarter,” said Trice, who made four 3-pointers. “Everybody started playing together and we went from there. Coach talked to us and said somebody had to step up.“
Another factor in that third quarter was shots started dropping for Case and Horlick’s attempts were minimized. Neal was held scoreless in the third quarter before scoring 12 in the fourth, after Case had taken control of the game.
“They made shots and we didn’t get shot attempts,” Treutelaar said. “I mean, it’s that simple. They were hitting 3s and then they were getting run-outs off of turnovers and getting layups.
“When you add all that up, all of a sudden the snowball in going downhill and getting bigger and bigger.”
Just about everyone who made this a memorable season for Case showed flashes before a packed Case fieldhouse. King and Clark provided consistent muscle inside, combining for 26 points and 19 rebounds. Jackson finished with 11 points, seven assists and six rebounds. Malik House contributed a 3-pointer. And Keith Thompson came off the bench to provide inside strength.
And now the Eagles will try to take another step toward advancing to the state tournament for the first time since 2005. As brutal as this sectional is, Treutelaar contends it will take a tremendous effort to oust Case.
“It’s going to take a team that’s able to rebound with them and keep them off the boards,” Treutelaar said. “They’re going to be a tough team to beat. They’re very talented, very deep, very big and strong and they’re going to be a tough out for anybody.”
Anthony Carothers had 10 points for Horlick and Barry added nine.