Seneca Valley's Darby wants one more run for Raiders
Sports are many things to many people, but for Seneca Valley's Matt Darby, they were a way to reach out to new people as he grew up.
“Growing up we moved from place to place, so basketball was a great way to meet people,” Darby said. “My dad played college basketball for Marietta in Ohio, and I got started when I was 3 years old.”
Darby and his family settled in Western Pennsylvania by the time he reached seventh grade. Now, six years later, Darby and the Raiders are primed for another run in the WPIAL playoffs.
As a senior, Darby would like nothing more than to help the Raiders get to the WPIAL finals.
Since he earned a starting position as a sophomore, the guard helped the Raiders reach the WPIAL quarterfinals and win a PIAA game in his first season.
Then, as a junior, he helped the team advance to the WPIAL final four.
“I have watched others lead the team, now it is on me to help lead,” Darby said. “As a point guard, I get guys involved, but I worked on my jump shot and ability to shoot off the dribble, and I went to some Division I camps to improve my game.”
Darby had to assume some additional roles as opposed to what he was used to, but the team is still in shape to get into the playoffs as the fourth team out of the difficult Section 3 in Class AAAA.
The Raiders are no stranger to getting a tough draw in the bracket, then busting it with a couple of upsets early, something Darby said can be achieved once again if the team stays focused.
“We had some letdowns, but hold our own destiny to get in,” Darby said. “We are the best when we are unselfish. Coach (Victor) Giannotta has done a good job, and we expect to make the playoffs and make a deep run.”
Darby said the team is steady and everyone knows his role. By putting individual goals on the back burner, the Raiders won three section games in a row to take control of the fourth spot.
“It starts in practice,” Darby said. “We are in the gym five days a week, and we get everyone focused. … Upperclassmen and underclassmen. We do things off the court, too, like team meals, and if one of us is down, we pitch in to pick him back up. There is someone to talk to them.”
Darby credits Giannotta with teaching him how to lead by example as well as with how he talks to his teammates.
“Matt is trying to learn to be a leader,” Giannotta said. “He wants more than anything to lead this team and be the captain, and he is showing that on the floor right now.”
Darby understands what his coach expects.
“He wants me to be a better player and be like a coach on the floor, an extension of him,” Darby said.
In a playoff game last season against Upper St. Clair, Darby said there were many doubters, but the Raiders took care of business. The team followed that up with another upset over Central Catholic.
“We were the low seed, and they were third or fourth and favored to beat us,” Darby said. “We won that game by double digits.”
Darby will be playing college basketball next season for Pitt-Greensburg. He likes the coach, the program and the atmosphere of the school.
Darby added that playing in such a difficult section prepared him for what awaits.
“You never get a night off in this section,” Darby said. “If you do, you get beat. There is depth down the line at Pine-Richland, New Castle, North Allegheny … I have played against these kids since seventh grade and in AAU basketball. I feel battle tested.”
Jerry Clark is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.