PORTERS 69, TUCKERS 63
Matt Dibble said that when he hurt his left knee while playing soccer this past fall, he didn’t think the injury was too serious. That is, until he received word from his doctor that he had suffered a torn lateral meniscus.
“I almost passed out in the doctor’s office,” Dibble said. “It was like my life before my eyes.”
The Greenport High School junior must have cringed at the possibility of his basketball season ending before it had even begun.
But Porters fans were in for something of a surprise Saturday when the starting lineups for Greenport’s non-league game against Mattituck were announced, and No. 3, Matt Dibble himself, was back in his usual place among the starting five.
Just 26 days since undergoing surgery to have the torn lateral meniscus removed, Dibble was back on the court at Greenport High School’s Dude Manwaring Gymnasium, contributing to his team’s 69-63 win.
“It was great,” Dibble said of his return to action. “I wouldn’t want to do anything else. It was a great Christmas present.”
Dibble, who received medical clearance to play the day before, was diligent about his comeback. Two weeks after the operation, he was training hard, going to the gym and undergoing physical therapy. He also attended every Greenport game and practice, working out on his own.
Dibble, who played with a brace on the knee, said he didn’t expect to start until assistant coach Rodney Shelby delivered the news to him before the game.
Then Dibble went out and produced 9 points, 8 assists, 1 rebound and 1 steal. Greenport coach Al Edwards estimated that Dibble played about 25 minutes.
“I felt great,” Dibble said. “I think I might be actually a little bit faster” than before the injury.
Edwards said: “He handled himself pretty well, I thought. He got right back into the fire, so I give him a lot of credit for that.”
Matt Dibble’s brother, Gavin Dibble, netted 15 points as did teammates Austin Hooks and reserve player Timmy Stevens to help Greenport hold off a second-half resurgence by Mattituck.
Greenport (4-3, 2-1 Suffolk County League VIII) looked headed for a rout in the first half as Stevens knocked down three 3-point shots and scored 11 points, pushing the Porters to an 18-point halftime lead at 39-21.
But Mattituck (1-6, 1-2 League VII) raised its game considerably in the second half. Although the Tuckers never held the lead, they did make it a game again thanks in part to the efforts of Chris Dwyer (15 points) and Eugene Allen (12 points, 9 rebounds, 3 steals, 2 assists, 1 block).
“When we play uptempo, we all feel it,” Dwyer explained. “We work together better.”
On the same day that Greenport welcomed Matt Dibble back to the fore, though, it also lost a player. Brian Tuthill’s left shoulder popped out of place and he left the game 55 seconds into the third quarter. Edwards said he didn’t know how long Tuthill, a starting forward, would be out. The coach said the dislocated shoulder has been an ongoing problem for Tuthill, who didn’t play in summer or fall leagues this year. “I think it’s pretty serious,” said Edwards.
Mattituck, meanwhile, salvaged something out of a potential laugher. A loss is a loss for Mattituck, but the Tuckers could take some good out of how they played in the second half when they scored 42 points and used their trapping defense to force 18 of Greenport’s 23 turnovers.
While he told his players he was happy with the effort, Mattituck coach Paul Ellwood also noted: “You got to be careful with moral victories because then you start saying it’s O.K., you come back and you rally, and you get respect from the other team who pat you on the back and say, ‘Good job,’ you kind of become satisfied with losing. So we have to get over the hump and work it out.”
Matt Dibble’s veteran presence might have made a difference in the outcome, said Ellwood.
“He just gives them that experience,” the coach said. “When we were making that run, we had them kind of on the ropes. You could tell [Matt Dibble] took some good drives to the basket and made a couple of big layups.”
Although Matt Dibble didn’t betray much emotion on his face during or after the game, there was no doubting how happy he was to be playing again.
“It’s great to be back,” he said. “I don’t know what else to say.”