ARGENTA -- Argenta-Oreana needed a little bit of everything to scratch out a win Tuesday.
After a long break for Central A&M and after a tough tournament for Argenta, both teams locked horns for 32 minutes of mostly well-played basketball.
As those minutes started disappearing, play became a little tighter. Neither team ever held a massive lead -- Argenta's seven-point lead was quickly cut back to one minutes later.
With less than a minute left, Derek Jones made the front end of two free throws and the Bombers clung to a one-point lead.
A&M had a chance to answer, and tried to find an opening for 20 seconds but nothing came. After a timeout, Jameson Smith created some space and pulled up for a mid-range shot, but it hit front iron and JaColby Boston hugged the rebound while drawing the foul.
Boston missed the first, then intentionally missed the second. After a timeout, A&M's Dillon Reed hurled inbounds to Smith, who had to turn 180 degrees and fire a 3-pointer with 0.6 seconds left. He got it off in time, but it fell just short. Argenta exhaled with a 61-60 win.
"A good team win. Coach said it was going to be a close one all along," Jones said. "In the county tournament, they were ranked the number one seed, so we knew it was going to be tough."
Argenta (7-4) was missing Pierce Bradford, who injured his hand at the end of the Tuscola game, leaving the Bombers crew of guards to pick up for him. Ulrey took on the scoring, finishing 9-of-14 for 21 points. Six different players had at least two assists, led by Boston's five.
Argenta assisted on 15 of its 22 field goals.
"Without Pierce, someone's got to pick up the slack," Ulrey said. "We shared the ball a lot better tonight. I thought we did a good job getting the ball around and moving it."
While Argenta moved the ball well inside to create good looks, A&M's Smith and Austin Sloan both nailed 3-pointers in the first half before giving way to Connor Heaton cutting inside and Keaton Garner's fast breaks in the second half.
Argenta coach Tom Saunches said they focused on limiting Smith and was happy with Jared Gifford's play.
"I thought we defended him pretty well, had different guys on him," Saunches said. "Gifford's kind of the glue. He can play guard, he can play forward. He's even got some post moves at 6-foot.
"There's nothing spectacular about his game, but everything's really good. He did a lot of good things for us."
Heaton led A&M (6-6) with 19 points.
"I thought we played hard," A&M coach Rob Smith said. "I didn't think we executed very well down the stretch at times. We rushed things a little bit, turned the ball over a little bit.
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"It's kind of disappointing because I thought we could have got a win here. We made one more mistake than they did down the stretch."
Against the top
With the state rankings coming out Tuesday, Argenta can say they've seen the current No. 1 Class 1A team in Colfax Ridgeview. Combine that with Paxton-Buckley-Loda, a 2A sectional final team from last year, and Argenta's schedule's hasn't been the easiest.
"I think our record's a lie because we've played a lot of really good teams," Ulrey said. "I think it just helps us getting into a good tournament like that."
A&M's dangerous because of its depth this season -- you can add another with Austin Sloan.
The sophomore hasn't taken many shots this season, but he made the first three on Tuesday and all three came behind the arc. Sloan's shot is pretty pure. There's not a lot of unnecessary movement going on.
"He played well in the JV, played well in the varsity game," Rob Smith said. "He's had some really good practice sessions and going forward, we expect big things from him."
Saunches said Bradford is day-to-day with a hand injury, the same one he broke last year about Christmas time.
Waiting for man
Even at 6-7, Derek Jones has spent most of his career on the perimeter.
Keegan McHood operated that space a couple of years ago, and last year, Jones said he stayed in his comfort zone by playing mostly outside.
This offseason, he really buckled down on playing in the paint, and he's waiting for the right time to use it. He scored 13 points Tuesday, for another double-digit performance.
"Most of the teams we've played have a 2-3 zone, so I've been stuck on the high post," Jones said. "When it comes time for a man team, I'll be able to show it off."