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Chicagoland Jewish boys basketball team gets to pray then play

ChicagolJewish Tigers players celebrate their wover their host  Wednesday semifinal Mooseheart Sectional. | Mary Beth Nolan~For Sun-Times Media

Chicagoland Jewish Tigers players celebrate their win over their host Wednesday in a semifinal of the Mooseheart Sectional. | Mary Beth Nolan~For Sun-Times Media

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Before the Chicagoland Jewish boys basketball team plays its Class 1A sectional final Saturday at Mooseheart, it will take a ride Friday. 

After school, a group of two dozen team members, parents and school officials will board a bus from the school’s campus in Deerfield for a trip to Naperville. They will check into a hotel and by sundown — approximately 5:30 p.m. — will begin to observe the Jewish Sabbath.

By 6:30 p.m. Saturday, after the Sabbath ends, they will board another bus for the 10-mile trip to Mooseheart, where the team will play Newark at 7:30 p.m. 

“We’re doing this so we can be at the game on time,” Chicagoland Jewish athletic director Josh Gleicher said. “It’s an interesting experience that doesn’t happen every year.”

The game was scheduled for Friday but moved to Saturday by the Illinois High School Association to accommodate the Sabbath. The IHSA announced a revised schedule Thursday that will continue to adhere to the school’s religious beliefs if the Tigers advance in the state tournament.

If Chicagoland Jewish wins Saturday and again in Tuesday’s supersectional, it will play in the 1A state semifinals early in the afternoon next Friday.

The IHSA announced Thursday it was flip-flopping the 1A and 2A games scheduled for March 9. Originally, the 1A third-place and championship games were scheduled for 12:15 p.m. and 2 p.m., respectively. Because the Sabbath begins at sundown Friday and ends at sundown Saturday, the IHSA moved the 1A games to 6:30 p.m. and 8:15 p.m. and the 2A games into the afternoon slots.

This is not an isolated act by the IHSA. For the last two years, it has moved the Class 1A wrestling regional at Walter Lutheran from daytime to evening Saturday to accommodate Ida Crown’s observance of the Sabbath. 

“We try to be proactive,” IHSA executive director Kurt J. Gibson said. “We have learned over time to work with our Jewish schools and have gotten better at planning things.”

Which means Saturday, Chicagoland Jewish will celebrate its faith by day, then play basketball at night. 

“For our students, parents and fans, this is so meaningful,” Gleicher said. 

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