After failing to adjust to Balko's press last year in the state tournament, the Eagles spent the entire past year working on handling a press.
The work paid off Thursday in a 49-44 Class B girls quarterfinals victory over No. 6 Timberlake that gave the fifth-ranked Eagles their first state tournament victory in school history.
“We feel better but we're not OK,” junior Kendra Coleman said. “We want to win; we want the whole thing.
“Every day we're working on press break, press break, press break because anybody that saw us play last year knew to press us. Now that we've worked on our press break, we're ready to go. We're ready to handle pressure.”
Red Oak faces top-ranked Hammon, another team that presses, on Friday morning at 9 a.m. in State Fair Arena.
Coleman finished with 15 points and eight rebounds. She also made four key free throws in the final minute that nearly got interesting.
“She's been real big for us in playoffs knocking down some free throws,” Red Oak coach Casey Butcher said. “She missed a couple today but usually when she's on the line it's money. She wanted the basketball late and she can be that girl anytime.”
The Eagles (25-6) turned the ball over 14 times — nine of which came in the first half — and forced 10.
“(The press break) could have been better but it got us through,” Coleman said.