Orthodox Jewish school’s run comes up one game short, but still inspires

Cameron Smith
Prep Rally

It wasn't supposed to end this way for the Houston (Texas) Beren Academy boys basketball team. After winning a last ditch legal appeal to have their berth in the Texas Association of Private and Parochial Schools semifinals, Beren won to advance to the state finals.

The Beren Academy bench during the state final loss — Smiley Pool/Houston Chronicle
The Beren Academy bench during the state final loss — Smiley Pool/Houston Chronicle

All the Stars needed to complete a truly storybook ending was a win in the state finals against Abilene (Texas) Christian School. Instead, Abilene Christian held off a furious Stars rally for a 46-42 win, foiling the Beren boys basketball team's chance to become the first program in the tiny school's history to win a state crown.

"We had our chance," Beren coach Chris Cole told the Houston Chronicle. "The week was crazy. But in the end, I'm not going to say that had anything to do with it. We got our chance on the court."

Beren may have had its chance on the court, but there were also extenuating circumstances. Because Beren remained inactive throughout the Jewish sabbath, beginning shortly after the Stars won their re-scheduled state semifinal on Friday at 2 p.m. and lasting until just before 7 p.m. on Saturday, with the final scheduled to start just an hour later at 8 p.m.

Because of those religious restrictions, Beren was left with just 31 minutes before tip off to warm up and get ready for the biggest game of the season. That seemed to play a major role in Beren digging itself a big hole early. The Stars fought back to earn a 19-19 tie at halftime, but were down 10 entering the fourth after being held to just four points in the third quarter and couldn't quite complete one final rally.

Regardless of the title game setback, Beren's story and ability to rise above all the obstacles put in its way, all while remaining true to the faith that guided the school's general structure and the players' beliefs.

"I was torn up that they're feeling the way they're feeling," Cole told the Chronicle. "I don't think they understand what they've accomplished and what they've really been through. We made it all the way to the state finals, and it's an accomplishment in itself. I was proud for them."

Added Rabbi Harry Sinoff, head of the Beren Academy:

"We feel this was a success," Sinoff said. "We got to compete in a basketball game, but the whole experience for the school was really remarkable. It brought the community together. Sometimes you don't have an event like this to do that. We're not pioneers. We just thought it was right for us to play. It was good for basketball."

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