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NIAA adjusts state tournament times for Adelson School

Adelson School’s boys basketball team will make just its second appearance in the Division IV state tournament this week.

And the Lions will try to win their first state crown without compromising the observance of their school’s faith.

Adelson opens state tournament play against Northern Region champion Whittell at 3 p.m. Friday at Reed High School in Sparks. The winner will face Mineral County or Southern League champion Word of Life for the title at 4:30 p.m. Saturday at UNR.

The Lions originally were scheduled to play the 8 p.m. game at Reed on Friday. But for the second straight week, the Nevada Interscholastic Activities Association shuffled game times to allow the Jewish school to honor the Sabbath.

“They didn’t ask specifically for something this weekend or last,” NIAA executive director Bart Thompson said. “We made a little adjustment. We want to help our member schools if we can and if it does not give them an advantage or put another school at a disadvantage.”

Adelson was scheduled to play its Southern League semifinal at 4:40 p.m. last Friday and the league final at 12:50 p.m. Saturday. But the faith of many of the Adelson players and coaches calls for them to observe Shabbat, or the Sabbath, from sundown Friday to sundown Saturday. So the NIAA moved the Friday game to 3 p.m. and the Saturday championship game to 8.

“Everyone is a little different,” Adelson marketing director Matt Boland said when asked what followers do or refrain from doing during the Sabbath. “I send out a weekly email on Fridays, and I try to send it early in the day, because come sundown, people won’t open their computers.”

When Adelson School became a full member of the NIAA and joined the then-Class 1A Southern League before the 2011-12 season, the school was granted membership under the caveat that it follow the same tournament schedule as every other member school and that it would not be given special treatment.

“They requested a meeting back in the fall (of this year) and brought up this issue,” Thompson said. “Basically, they asked if it was possible for us to take a look at the schedule. They said if we couldn’t accommodate, that they would understand. We told them we would look at it, but we won’t guarantee or promise anything.”

The NIAA has shifted game times in past years to accommodate schools that had two teams playing at a site but in the bookend games of the day, making those games back-to-back to help the school and its fan base. Game times also have been changed to accommodate Advanced Placement testing schedules.

Changing the game times also takes away the possibility that NIAA scheduling faces a First Amendment challenge.

In 2012, Houston’s Beren Academy was voted out of a state semifinal by the Texas Association of Private and Parochial Schools because the Orthodox Jewish school would not participate in a Friday night semifinal game. Players and parents from the Beren team filed suit in U.S. District Court, and TAPPS agreed to change the schedule.

Boland said Adelson School, which has an upper school enrollment of about 150, is just happy to be competing for a title.

“We’re very excited,” he said. “No one expected us to go to a state tournament. Primarily, we’re an academic excellence school. We’ll never be a Bishop Gorman or a Findlay Prep or anything like that. We love offering sports for all of our students.”

The Las Vegas Review-Journal is owned by the Adelson family, founders of the Adelson School.

Contact reporter Bartt Davis at bdavis@reviewjournal.com or 702-387-5230.

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