Running out of dream

Heartbreaking finish: After fighting to play, Beren Academy loses in state title game despite fierce rally

Heartbreaking finish: After fighting to play, Beren Academy loses in state title game despite fierce rally

Zach Yoshor
Zach Yoshor scored 24 points in the semis after having put up 40 points in the quarterfinals.
Beren Academy free throw
Beren Academy just wanted to play basketball while staying true to its faith. Courtesy of Robert M. Beren Academy
Beren huddle
Chris Cole talks with his Beren team in the huddle.
Zach Yoshor
Beren Academy free throw
Beren huddle

FORT WORTH — Beren Academy lived the dream. It just didn't get the dream ending.

The small Orthodox Jewish day school in Houston that fought so hard to get the chance to play in the Texas Association of Private and Parochial Schools (TAPPS) 2A final four lost 46-42 in the state title game to Abilene Christian Saturday night.

Trailing by 10 points in the fourth quarter, the Stars pulled off a frantic rally led by senior guard Isaac Mirwis (15 points). Down 41-38 in the final minute, they had several good looks at a triple.

With 22.2 seconds left, Beren pulled within 42-40. But Abilene hit four free throws in final 22 seconds. The Stars who'd made national and international headlines with their quest to get to play without being forced to violate the Sabbath and their religious beliefs wouldn't get that storybook finish.

Beren's white team vans didn't pull into the parking lot of Nolan Catholic High School till 7:29 with an 8 p.m. tip looming. The Stars could not leave the hotel till after complete sundown to observe the Sabbath.

And they looked a step slow early, falling behind 12-7 after the first quarter.

By halftime it was a 19-19 game, with Beren forward Zachary Yoshor putting in 11 points in the first 16 minutes.

Beren needed a lawsuit to even get the chance to complete its dream season. Without forcing the games to be scheduled outside of the Sabbath, something TAPPS rejected not one, but twice before seeing the lawsuit and relenting, the Stars' season would have ended with a forfeit.

Yoshor and his teammates never set out to stand up for religious tolerance, but that's how it turned out.

"This has become bigger than just our school," said Ari Gold, a Beren parent who has been calling the games on a Livestream that's been watched in several countries.

Stay tuned to CultureMap for a full column from the scene later.