Greenport High School will certainly face some unique challenges at both the start and the end of this boys basketball season.
The Porters might have to begin their season without senior point guard Matt Dibble, who suffered a knee injury during the fall soccer season.
While Greenport will continue to play in Suffolk County League VIII, the team will face greater challenges in the postseason, as it moved up from Class D to Class C due to the addition of about 10 students in the school.
“It would be nice if we won a Class C tournament,” said coach Al Edwards, whose team has been a Class D power. “It gives the kids something to work for. We’ll try to make the best of it.”
The Porters (12-6 last season) will try to make the best of the absence of Dibble.
“I don’t know where that’s going to go,” Edwards said. “I don’t know when he’ll be able to play.”
Edwards said Matt Dibble has taken a lot of pressure off his big brother, Gavin Dibble.
“We all have to step it up to make it work,” Edwards added.
Players ready to step up include the 5-10 junior guard Gavin Dibble, an All-Conference player who led the Porters in scoring.
“He had some really good games last year,” Edwards said.
They also include 6-2 senior forward Christian Davis, who is expected to provide scoring and defense around the basket. Senior guard Max Eggimann should provide points and defense and 6-3 senior forward Austin Hooks should work with Davis to help with rebounding.
“We have a good nucleus coming back,” Edwards said.
Billy Doucett, a 6-2 swingman, will offer Greenport some versatility.
“He does a good job of finding the open man,” Edwards said. “He also has to be a workhorse on the boards.”
Timmy Stevens, a 5-9 sophomore guard, saw plenty of action last year and is expected to add a perimeter shot to the Porters’ attack.
Edwards will try to find his eight- or nine-man rotation in Matt Dibble, once he returns; senior Bryant Rivas, up from the junior varsity; the Drinkwater twins, Matt and John, who are expected to play in the backcourt; 6-foot swingman Angel Colon; 6-1 junior forward Brian Tuthill; and senior forwards Chris Manwaring and Richard Wysocki.
Greenport hosts Port Jefferson in its season opener Monday, Dec. 3, at 6:15 p.m.
“We’re always positive,” Edwards said. “We always set high goals for ourselves.”
Mattituck endured a long rebuilding season last year as the Tuckers (0-14) lost their five starters and eight seniors from their 2011 Long Island Class B championship team.
So coach Paul Ellwood hopes the Tuckers will improve with a young team that will be more experienced.
Whether that will translate into more wins this season remains to be seen.
“It’s a question of when we blossom,” he said, “whether it is this year or next year.”
Ellwood is hopeful that it will be this year. But no one has to remind him that high school players, especially young ones, develop at different stages and rates. Some fit right into their roles, while others take weeks, months or even years to reach their potential.
The Tuckers have five sophomores and a freshman.
“If I can get contributions from them as role players, the rest will take care of itself,” Ellwood said.
He said he sees the team having the potential for a lot of growth.
“We closed the gap on the better teams,” Ellwood said. “I think we’re going to be deep. Everyone will have to carry a big load.”
Ellwood will rely on four players — a freshman, sophomore, junior and senior — to carry a decent portion of that load.
Tyler Connel, a 5-9 senior guard, averaged 3.5 assists a game. Junior Eugene Allen, a 6-1 small forward, enjoyed a fine season (10 points per game, eight rebounds), which Ellwood termed the most productive sophomore seasons under him. Sophomore Will Gildersleeve, a 6-foot guard, also logged many minutes last year.
Then there’s 5-10 freshman Joe Tardif, a junior varsity standout as an eighth-grader last season, who has impressed at point guard in scrimmages.
“He can shoot it,” Elwood said. “He has great instincts. He is going to be in the lineup every night. I think Joe is going to make a quick transition.”
Other players competing for spots include senior forwards Justin Tyler and Ryan Finger and sophomore forward Chris Dwyer, all of whom are over 6 feet. Dwyer came up from JV late last season and averaged 8 points in four appearances.
“He did a nice job,” Ellwood said.
Junior forward Tyler Reeve will also compete for time.
The Tuckers host Southold in their season opener at 5:45 p.m. Friday, Dec. 7.
Southold will deploy a young team, with only two returning seniors and a number of junior varsity graduates who have an opportunity to make their marks.
“We have a certain kind of kid at Southold that has a tradition of hard work,” said first-year varsity coach Phil Reed. “They never give up. They’re very athletic. Sometimes we can overcome a lot of teams with athletic ability. I believe in our kids.”
Start with David O’Day, a 6-foot guard, and 6-2 Peter DiCandia, who will play at either power forward or center. They’re the two returning seniors. DiCandia came on at the end of last season, Reed said.
“They’re going to help us out quite a bit,” he added.
But they will need help. Sophomore guard Liam Walker, who saw action last year, is expected to take over some of the scoring slack.
“I’m hoping O’Day and Liam can get into double digits and help us score this year,” Reed said.
Junior Matthew Stepnoski, a 6-1 forward who came off the bench, is slated to be in the starting five as well.
“He’s an undersized player who works hard and plays bigger than his size,” Reed said.
Swingman John Tomici, who came off the bench and played well at the end of last season, should help out defensively.
Reed is hoping for some big things from 5-11 junior point guard Kenji Fujita, who is up from the JV. Fujita has varsity experience in another sport after tending goal for the First Settlers’ soccer team that reached the county Class C final this fall.
“He will step into some big shoes,” Reed said. “He had two great seasons on JV. He’s a very good athlete, a smart kid, a very coachable kid. I know he’s up to the challenge.”
Also up from the JV are a pair of 5-10 sophomores, guard Shayne Johnson and forward Alex Poliwoda, along with junior center/forward Kevin McGough.
“Next year we should be fairly OK,” Reed said. “I have no idea on how these kids will respond to competition. They have to get a few games under their belt.”
The First Settlers open their season in a non-league encounter at 5:45 p.m. Friday, Dec. 7, at Mattituck.