Orthodox Jewish school Beren Academy gets to play in, wins state semi after late legal action

It appears that Houston (Texas) Robert Beren Academy got to play its state semifinal basketball game after all.

The Beren Academy basketball team at practice — Mayra Beltran/Houston Chronicle via AP
The Beren Academy basketball team at practice — Mayra Beltran/Houston Chronicle via AP

According to MyFoxHouston and other sources, the Texas Association of Private and Parochial Schools agreed to reschedule the team's semifinal against Dallas (Texas) Covenant Academy, which had also offered to reschedule the game with officials from the organization.

The decision to reschedule the semifinal (originally set for 9 p.m. Friday) followed the filing of a legal injunction by parents of some of the Beren players. Facing potential legal entanglements, TAPPS Executive Director Edd Burleson said that his organization would obey the restraining order. The game was played Friday at 2 p.m. at Forth Worth (Texas) Nolan Catholic School, with Beren emerging victorious, 58-46, setting up a state final appearance on Saturday at 8 p.m., thus avoiding the conflict of the Sabbath from sundown Friday to sundown Saturday.

According to YourHoustonNews.com, Zach Yoshor led Beren with 24 points and teammate Isaac Mirwis contributed 12 in the Stars win.

The Times also reported that the lawyers who fought to obtain the restraining order all offered to take the case pro bono to avoid racking up any fees for Beren Academy or families of the students who attend it.

While the legal challenge may have finally forced TAPPS' hand, there was plenty of public pressure to move the game before then. After Beren first forfeited its potential appearance in the game because of its scheduling on the Sabbath the issue gained national attention in outlets like the New York Times, on ESPN's Outside the Lines and here at Prep Rally.

An online petition that was linked to in many of the outlets covering the story -- Prep Rally included -- gained thousands of signatures beseeching TAPPS to move the game so Beren students could observe the Sabbath and still continue their playoff season, which will now culminate in the first state semifinal appearance in program history.

Among the high-profile critics of TAPPS' refusal to bend its official policies was former Knicks and Rockets head coach turned ESPN analyst Jeff Van Gundy, who offered the following scathing critique to the Times.

"I called [TAPPS] because when you're the head of an association like this, the only thing you should worry about is doing right by the kids," Van Gundy said in a phone interview Wednesday. "This decision has nothing to do with the kids. I feel like they made a mistake and they don't have a vice president of common sense who will tell them that this is silly and it's O.K. to change your mind."

Throughout it all, the Beren players and coaches have maintained a steady front, offering nothing but classy comments about the disappointing situation.

"We are thankful to the TAPPS for ultimately making the right decision," Beren Academy said in a statement about the rescheduling released on Thursday. "We are very proud of our basketball team, the Beren Stars. Not only have the boys demonstrated considerable skill on the court this season, they have handled the stress of the past week with extraordinary maturity and composure."

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