Last year, the Robert M. Beren Academy’s quest to win the Texas Association of Private and Parochial Schools (TAPPS) state basketball title became a national curiosity.
In case you don’t remember, the Houston Orthodox school’s playoff run was temporarily halted when the TAPPS semifinal game was scheduled on Shabbat. After the league refused to reschedule the game, the team had no choice but to plan to forfeit the game. Fortunately, after a media blitz, widespread outpouring of support, a lawsuit, and a court order, TAPPS relented and rescheduled the game. The Beren Stars won the semifinal battle, but lost a close game in the state finals. TAPPS promised that it would accommodate the team in the future.
This year, with no controversy, the team quietly made another huge run, which ended dramatically after the team lost a heartbreaker of a game in the state semifinals–edged out by one point in a quadruple overtime game. Ironically enough, the playoff game was played on a Friday afternoon and because of its late finish, the team had to call some last-minute audibles to settle in before the Sabbath arrived.
While last year may have caused a national fury, when I arrived in Houston last week, the team’s effort was the talk of Jewish community. I spoke about the Beren run with Zach Yoshor, who led the Stars with 30 points in his final high school game, playing every minute of the contest. Yoshor is six-foot-six and, like all smart men, a Houston Rockets devotee. His favorite player to watch is Miami Heat star LeBron James, who is no stranger to controversy.
“I know it’s cliché, but LeBron is just so good.”
I asked him how this year’s playoffs differed from last year.
“This year, everything was a lot quieter, much less televised. It was more of what it should have been, more about basketball.”
With graduation not far away, Yoshor is weighing his options. His plans may include a gap year in Israel, maybe some time at a yeshiva, and definitely more basketball. He says he’ll wait until Passover to decide.
As for Beren, with their continued success, the world of Texas hoops has a new contender.