PORTERS 50, ROYALS 32
Returning from a three-year sabbatical, Keith Buehler was courtside again as the Port Jefferson boys basketball coach on Monday night. After his Royals opened a new season with a non-league game at Greenport High School, Buehler was asked what was the biggest thing he learned from the evening’s proceedings.
“That I should have stayed home,” he answered, tongue in cheek.
Seriously, Greenport didn’t make things comfortable for Buehler or his Royals. The Porters, who had faced a discouraging setback before the season started with knee injuries to their first-string point guard, senior Matt Dibble, enjoyed a healthy dose of encouragement with their play in the season opener. Looking almost surprisingly sharp in the first half, Greenport ran in front from the beginning, all the way to a 50-32 result in its favor.
“I think it was a pretty good first game,” said Greenport guard Gavin Dibble, who turned in a typically reliable performance with 12 points, 7 assists, 5 steals and 4 rebounds. “We came in here with a purpose, and we executed.”
Indeed, the Porters had a lot to feel good about. Austin Hooks, showing an assortment of low-post moves, produced a game-high 16 points. Timmy Stevens, making his first varsity start in place of the injured Matt Dibble, supplied 9 points, all from 3-pointers. Billy Doucett had a nice game as well with 8 points and 10 rebounds.
Defensively, Greenport forced 19 turnovers and held Port Jefferson to 33.3-percent (9 of 27) shooting from the field. During one stretch, Port Jefferson missed seven straight field-goal attempts, a cold spell that was broken in the third quarter when a Cody Steiner basket made the score 34-17.
Jasper Rubin-Sigler was the only Port Jefferson player to score in double figures; he had 11 points.
“It’s basketball season, baby,” Gavin Dibble said. “There’s a lot of adrenaline flowing. Everyone’s excited, the first game. We were pumped up. It’s the first game, but it’s something to build off of, definitely, you know, give us some momentum, you know, see if we can keep going.”
Hooks scored 7 points in helping Greenport jump ahead, 13-6. The Porters never lost the lead and twice built 21-point leads in the second half at 38-17 and 46-25.
“We’re scoring the ball well,” Hooks said. “We’re playing good defense, an all-around good performance.”
Aside from Rubin-Sigler, Port Jefferson’s two other main scoring threats, Steiner (7 points) and T. J. Lewis (1), were contained.
“Defensively, I wasn’t that upset,” said Buehler, who had been Port Jefferson’s coach for nine years before Mike Riley ran the team the past three seasons. “Offensively, I was a little concerned. We looked tentative.”
The game was played the same day that Matt Dibble, Gavin Dibble’s older brother, underwent surgery for knee injuries. It is uncertain when he will be able to return to the team.
“We’re going to surely miss him,” said Greenport coach Al Edwards.
In Matt Dibble’s absence, the bulk of the ballhandling duties fall to Stevens and Max Eggiman. “Other than that, you got to dig pretty far to find somebody who’s going to bring the ball up for you,” said Edwards.
It wasn’t all roses for Greenport on Monday night, though. The Porters’ playing level dropped in the second half. Edwards said improvements can be made in free-throw shooting (6 of 13), weakside rebounding and ball control in the halfcourt.
All in all, though, the coach couldn’t complain about too much.
“It was a good season opener,” he said. “We just have to keep improving. Seventeen more games to go.”