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Orthodox team advances to Texas state championship game

JTA

March 2, 2012 | 3:41 pm

After grabbing national headlines with its push for a pre-Shabbat starting time, the Robert M. Beren Academy of Houston registered a decisive 58-46 win over Dallas Covenant to secure a spot in the 2A private and parochial boys basketball state championship game.

Junior sensation Zach Yoshor led the Beren Stars with 24 points.

The Texas Association of Private and Parochial Schools, known as TAPPS,originally ruled that the game would be played at its original 9 p.m. start time—after the start of the Jewish Sabbath. Beren, a Modern Orthodox school, would have opted to forefit without a change in the schedule.

But TAPPS reversed itself just hours after the announcement that the team captain, along with teammates and parents, had enlisted the support of prominent Washington attorney Nathan Lewin and filed a lawsuit against the association; the lawsuit also named the Mansfield Independent School District, whose facilities are hosting the semifinals and finals of the 2A tournament.

The championship game was originally set for 2 p.m. Saturday, which also conflicts with the Sabbath. But the game will now be played at 9 p.m. Eastern Standard Time. (The game can be watched online at blogs.jta.org/telegraph).

“We are thankful to the TAPPS for ultimately making the right decision,” the Beren Academy said in a statement Thursday. “The school administration and board was not involved in any legal action, and we regret that it took a lawsuit filed [by] parents to bring about this decision.”

TAPPS in a statement posted on its website Wednesday had said that when the Beren Academy met with the association’s board in 2009 to discuss membership, it was told that tournament games are scheduled on Friday and Saturday, and that the school’s athletic director said he “understood” and “did not see a problem.”

Beren’s plight made international headlines this week and garnered support from several public figures, including the mayor of Houston, the former Rockets coach Jeff Van Gundy and U.S. Sen. John Cornyn (R-Texas). The team, which with a 24-5 record is playing the best basketball in its history, had earned a spot in the state semifinals last week with a 27-point victory in the quarterfinals.

The 2A category includes schools with enrollments of 55 to 120 students.

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