Ty Daubert (@TyDaubert)
HAVERFORD — Entering his senior season at The Haverford School, forward Dave Kearney wanted to step up his production for his final campaign. It’s the least he could do for his Fords program and the school that’s been his home for practically his whole life.
“I want to be a key player on this team,” he said. “I love this school, and I’ve been looking forward a lot to this season.”
Dave Kearney (above) scored 20 points in his first high school varsity start. (Photo: Mark Jordan/CoBL)
Last season, Kearney scored a total of 22 points in the nine games The Haverford School played in the Inter-Ac League. With all five starters having graduated, he’s ready to take on an expanded role in 2021-2022.
Kearney was certainly a difference-maker for his squad in the Fords’ opener on Wednesday night, as he scored a game-high 20 points and sparked a fourth-quarter comeback in a non-league home win over Friends’ Central.
Performing for The Haverford School in particular is so important to Kearney because of the role the institution has played in his life. He’s attended the school since kindergarten and is a two-sport athlete there, also playing football. The Haverford School’s impact extends throughout his family as well; his father, Mike Kearney, is a teacher at the 137-year-old all-boys private school on the Mail Line and his twin brother, Matt Kearney, is a fellow student and teammate.
“This school means everything,” Dave Kearney said. “I think this school is preparing me for life. It’s given me everything I need to be successful.”
Being a member of the basketball program is something the 6-foot-5 forward also takes pride in, bringing intensity on behalf of his team.
“He’s been here since kindergarten, so he has a great passion for the place,” Fords head coach Bernie Rogers said. “He’s old-school. He works really hard, and he’s a good teammate.”
After breaking his thumb in May, Kearney missed most of the summer circuit recovering from the injury. As a forward with the ability to face up on the inside, attack the rim and draw fouls, the high school season may be the first for many to see his game.
Dave Kearney (above) drives to the hoop for two against the Friends' Central defense. (Photo: Mark Jordan/CoBL)
The first chance to impress this year was a success for Kearney. Down eight points entering the fourth quarter, the senior scored 12 of his 20 points in the last period on the way to the 63-55 Fords victory.
With around four minutes left in the game and facing a seven-point deficit, Kearney found himself on two consecutive breakaways for scores. He was fouled on the second, knocking down the free throw to cut the FCS lead to two.
“I just think, as a team, we fought really hard,” Kearney said. “We got some loose balls, and that allowed me to free up for some layups.”
Junior forward Carson Mastin soon made a reverse layup then a free throw to put the Fords ahead, and they never looked back. He finished with 17 points, shooting 7-for-12 from the free throw line on the night. Kearney also took 12 free throws and made eight. Sophomore guard Billy Rayer added 10 points with two 3-pointers.
“We told them before the game: Just compete and battle,” Rogers said of the comeback. “I thought Dave and all the guys did a really good job of not feeling sorry for themselves and saying, ‘Let’s go take advantage and work hard.’”
Friends’ Central found itself struggling to score down the stretch. The team was outscored 25-9 in the fourth quarter after seemingly finding some momentum right ahead of it.
Junior forward Carson Mastin (above) added 17 points in the Fords' win. (Photo: Mark Jordan/CoBL)
Following a back-and-forth game for most of the night, the Phoenix went on a small run to end the third quarter, capped by sophomore guard Reid Becher’s jumper from deep for three of his team-high 18 points in the period’s final seconds to put his team up eight.
But FCS hit a wall after that. Following his first game at the helm for his alma mater, new head coach Mike Cook said he doesn’t expect the trend to continue once the team travels to Penn Charter on Friday for their next non-league matchup.
“When you look at the amount of transition buckets we missed, the amount of times we got right to the rim and we hit the bottom of the rim, those things aren’t going to happen,” the former Pitt standout said. “... We have the ability to win games like this by 15 or 20 points. But tonight we just let it get away.”
Perhaps a reason the Phoenix could not convert some of those chances was the presence of Keaney. Haverford was without 6-foot-8 senior center Dan Springman due to illness, so the Fords were forced to play smaller. Kearney, playing as an undersized big, was able to make up for his absence at least partially, altering shots on defense and rebounding aside from his offensive contributions.
“I think he really, really took care of the backboard for us,” Rogers said. “He finished, got his scoring in different ways and really kept us in the game.”
Kearney wishes to continue his basketball career at the college level next year. He’s spoken to and visited Elizabethtown recently, but his aforementioned injury has set his recruitment back. He hopes this high school season can help him gain more exposure to colleges.
In the meantime, he and his teammates aim to keep things rolling as they host Hun School on Thursday. With a victory under their belts and a starter still set to enter the mix, the Fords hope to keep finding ways to win as they prepare for Inter-Ac play later in the season. Certain teams in the league played schedules of varying lengths last year, but there was no real Inter-Ac champion. This season, the 10-game, double-round-robin league schedule will return, and the Fords have their sights set to the top.
“We have high expectations for the season,” Kearney said. “Win the league, and we want to go even farther than that. I just want to do whatever I can do to make that happen.”