FRENCHTOWN — When the Darby boys last met Seeley-Swan before the District 13-C championship game, the Tigers needed a desperation 3-point attempt to win in double overtime at the buzzer.

On Saturday, Darby used every second from the game's opening buzzer to show they belonged atop the district.

The Tigers' 65-38 win over the Blackhawks grew out of a 16-4 first-quarter Darby onslaught that the Tigers (19-1) hardly slowed until they held up the first-place trophy.

It's Darby's first district title in 28 years.

"We've been working defense all week. (Coach Richard Griffin) said it was going to be defense that won this game, and he was right," said Darby post Nelson Smith, who scored 13 points. "We just came out firing, we were hot, hitting everything; it was great.

"I'm ready to go on (to divisionals)."

Divisionals — the Western C divisional — is a different animal, to be sure. With Darby to face the likes of two-time defending state champion Arlee (19-1 overall) and Manhattan Christian (20-0), the Tigers will have to be in top form to match the pedigree.

It'd have to look a lot like how Darby looked in the first quarter Saturday.

The Tigers opened the game on a 7-0 run created by a Smith 3-pointer and a Dylan Parks' steal and scoring try. The speedy senior couldn't connect on the layup, but he drew the foul, hit two, and he was a perfect 4-for-4 from the line in the opening quarter. 

Gabe Smith — Darby's 3-point hero against Seeley back on Feb. 8 — then followed with an offensive rebound in the stretch and a basket to help the Tigers get the jump at the 4:55 mark.

Seeley's Owen Mercado got his squad on the board with a free throw, and he hit the Blackhawks' first field goal at the 2:49 mark to make it 7-3. He added an and-1 free throw to pull Seeley within one possession, 7-4, and Mercado led Seeley with 14 points.

But Darby's Brandon Winters dampened any thought of a counter-run by Seeley with a deep spot-up 3-pointer to give the Tigers a 10-point lead, and he added a pair of free throws on the next possession.

Winters finished with a game-high 17 points for the Tigers, connecting on two more 3-pointers the rest of the way.

"All year we've been working to do this. Last year (at districts) Seeley took us out," Winters said. "Coach said every practice to come and bring it; every game, to take them one at a time, and here we are."

Parks' final pair of free throws in the quarter came one possession later and gave the Tigers a 14-4 advantage. The Tigers lead would never drop below double figures the rest of the way.

"It's brought a community back together for basketball. It's brought the (kids) together at the school — it's meant a lot," coach Griffin said of the district title and the 19-1 season thus far. "It's not necessarily about this win out here, it's how you come together as a team — and we've been fighting together at practice every day for three months and it paid off."

To make the celebration sweeter for the Tigers, when Darby won the District title almost three decades ago, coach Griffin's dad, Wendell, was the head coach. Wendell is currently one of Richard's assistants, and he was on the bench to see Darby do it again — 28 years later.

"Back then... they played hard too," Wendell said succinctly.

When asked what the Griffin magic was, Wendell said, "You know what makes good coaches? Good players."

Seeley-Swan girls 42, Darby 34

The Seeley girls exacted a little revenge for their boys in the girls' title game, holding off an upstart Tiger squad that came into the tournament as the third seed.

In the end, top-seeded Seeley's (15-5) depth and the girls' commitment to getting everyone the ball won out.

"Playing unselfishly and making sure we can get everyone as many points as we could," Seeley senior Lily Mercer said, explaining the win. 

Mercer was astute. She tied for the lead in scoring on her squad with eight points along with junior Terra Bertsch. Eight different Blackhawks scored in the win.

The Tigers got 10 points from senior Casey Ehmann, who had a steal that led to a pair of free throws in the third quarter. She connected on them both and Darby cut into Seeley's lead, 30-24. Freshman Amber Anderson added 12 points for Darby in a gutsy performance that garnered her standing applause late in the fourth quarter.

Bertsch opened the fourth, though, with a basket plus-1 to increase Seeley's lead to seven, 33-26. Darby cut it to one possession with 4:10 remaining, 35-32, but Bertsch again responded with a baseline cut and layup on the next possession. 

From there, Seeley was able to drain the clock all the way to another District title, the Blackhawks' seventh straight.

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