For the first time ever, the Beren Academy’s boys basketball team is headed to the Texas state championship.
The Orthodox Jewish school advanced Friday afternoon with a 58-46 victory over Dallas Covenant in a semifinal that was rescheduled only after parents sued to ensure it wouldn’t conflict with the Sabbath.
Zach Yoshor led Beren with 24 points and teammate Isaac Mirwis contributed 12 in the Stars win.
The game was originally set for last night which would have precluded Beren students from playing. Their faith prohibits participation between sunset on Friday and sunset on Saturday.
The Texas Association of Private and Parochial Schools -TAPPS - initially rejected Beren’s request to reschedule the 2A semifinal. The association relented after public outcry and the threat of a federal lawsuit.
The local Anti-Defamation League also spoke out against TAPPs decision and an online petition had thousands of signatures in support of the Beren's team. The team's quest to participate had also drawn the attention of an array of public figures and politicians ranging from Mayor Annise Parker to former Rockets coach Jeff Van Gundy to U.S. Sen. John Cornyn.
Friends and relatives of the Beren's players, whose plight generated national media attention earlier this week, stood and cheered in the final seconds.
Beren will face Abilene Christian at 8 p.m. Saturday at Nolan Catholic leaving them only about an hour to get ready and warm up beforehand. But the team is pumped and excited to play for the title.
TAPPS director Edd Burleson said he has received hundreds of emails and phone calls accusing him of being a bigot and calling him anti-Semitic. But earlier this week, he said the board’s rejection had nothing to do with religion but with the organization’s long-standing policy not to change the playoffs date. TAPPS’ rules say a school should forfeit the playoffs completely if the schedule is not suitable.
In support of the team, the school wrote on their Website:
This is a testament to our school and to Coach Cole for his support and dedication, that, independent of the desire to compete, is the desire to uphold our Jewish values. We are proud of who we are, and have the courage to act accordingly.>
[UPDATE 3/4/12] The Robert M. Beren Academy boys basketball team’s magical journey came to an end Saturday night. Perhaps more importantly, it came to an end on their own terms - playing hard down to the final second.
The Stars fell to Abilene Christian 46-42 in the Texas Association of Private and Parochial Schools state championship game at Nolan Catholic High School.
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