Jewish school wins playoff game reset for Friday
FORT WORTH, Texas (AP) -- Beren Academy's boys basketball team is headed to the state championship. And this time, there's no need to reschedule the game.
The Orthodox Jewish school in Texas advanced Friday 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.
A group of about 100 relatives and friends of the Houston team, whose plight had generated national media attention, stood and cheered in the final seconds.
"It's great - absolutely hard to describe," team co-captain Isaac Buchine said. "To find out that other people would be playing in our spot didn't sit well ... but we focused on the basketball aspect of it."
The game was originally set for Friday night after the sunset that opens the Sabbath. Beren students say their faith prohibits participation between sunset on Friday and sunset on Saturday.
The Texas Association of Private and Parochial Schools, or TAPPS, initially rejected Beren Academy's request to reschedule the 2A semifinal. The association relented after several parents filed a federal lawsuit seeking a temporary restraining order requiring TAPPS to move the game time.
Buchine said some players found out on Thursday, and word quickly spread as they shouted, gave each other high-fives and started sending text messages to their teammates and other friends. Then the players had to go home and pack for the unexpected 250-mile van ride to Fort Worth.
The school will play in the championship game on Saturday night. The team will have about an hour to get ready and warm up beforehand.
"We're ready," Buchine said. "When you've been through adversity, it pays off."
Mark Mirwis, who was among a handful of parents who filed the suit, said it was unpopular but that he discussed it with his son, team co-captain and point guard Isaac Mirwis, before making the decision.
"It wasn't about the game per se ... but asking, `What does God want us to do?"' Mark Mirwis said.
Rick Guttman, Beren's school board vice president, said the league's other teams were accommodating throughout the season in rescheduling Saturday games at Beren's request. Only when Beren reached the semifinals and association officials got involved did a problem arise, but he hopes that won't happen in the future.
"I think the teams want to compete at the highest level," said Guttman, whose son plays on the team.
Dallas Covenant coach Chris Shelton said his school had no problem with the game being rescheduled and his team was "happy to be playing today, to still be playing in March."
There are a handful of recent example of exceptions in sports to accommodate faith.
In June, the International Weightlifting Federation modified its clothing rules for an American-Muslim woman, Kulsoom Abdullah of Atlanta, who would have been unable to participate if she couldn't keep her arms, legs and head covered.
A year ago, USA Gymnastics allowed then-7-year-old Amalya Knapp to compete on Sunday since she couldn't participate in a Saturday meet due to her Orthodox Jewish family's faith. But because she didn't compete on the same day as others in her age group, her scores were not counted toward any individual medals or rankings.
And in Dearborn, Mich., home to one of the largest Muslim populations in the U.S., football players who observe Ramadan have forced some high schools to change their normal training sessions. In the summer of 2010, one of the hottest ever in that city, a Fordson High School coach held practices between 11 p.m. and 4 a.m. so his players could properly drink and eat during the few hours allowed during Ramadan.
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.
"You have certain rules, and you have to decide which rules are you going to follow and which you aren't," he said.