Witness the Faithful: Oakwood’s Unprecedented Championship Run Amazing comeback story from Alabama high school basketball team honoring their faith to play in the big game
Ryan Colby 202-349-7219 firstname.lastname@example.org
WASHINGTON — Oakwood Adventist Academy’s remarkable journey in the Alabama boys’ state basketball tournament came to an end in Birmingham yesterday when they competed in the school’s first-ever trip to the state championship, narrowly losing 50-46 to last year’s champion.
Last year, Oakwood’s championship hopes were dashed when they were denied an accommodation to change the time of a playoff game that was scheduled during their Sabbath observance, forcing the team to forfeit and lose their chance at a championship run. After standing up for its faith, Oakwood then stood up for its rights. With the help of Becket and the Seventh-day Adventist Church, Oakwood filed a lawsuit against the Alabama High School Athletic Association (AHSAA) and successfully changed the policy, paving the way for its own success and for all schools of minority faiths that want to compete equally in high school sports.
“The Sabbath isn’t just a day off for these students; it’s so much more. It is an opportunity to pause and celebrate God’s goodness – honoring Him in His sacredness,” said Todd McFarland, deputy general counsel for the General Conference for Seventh-day Adventists. “This championship run proves that no one has to sacrifice their faith in order to compete at the highest level.”
Oakwood Adventist Academy is a Seventh-day Adventist school in Huntsville, Alabama, that honors the Sabbath as a central part of its religious tradition. From sundown on Friday to sundown on Saturday, students and staff take a break from activities like work or competitive sports to observe this sacred obligation. In February 2022, Oakwood’s boys’ basketball notched a school first by reaching the regional semifinals. However, when the game was scheduled for 4:30 pm on a Saturday, Oakwood faced a dilemma – a conflict between their most deeply held religious beliefs and the pre-sundown start time. The other three teams agreed to swap game times so that Oakwood could play during the 7:30 pm game slot, but AHSAA intervened and refused to allow the schedule swap. Unable to violate the Sabbath, this left Oakwood with no choice but to forfeit. Oakwood filed suit in May 2022, and four months later, AHSAA changed its rules to accommodate Sabbath observers.
This season, Oakwood defied the odds and made it to their first-ever state title match against the defending championship team. After a hard-fought battle, Oakwood lost by just four points, 50-46, but the team’s Cinderella story stands as a testament not only to their hard work on the court, but their commitment to their faith in the face of enormous adversity.
“The boys of Oakwood Academy have shown what it means to put first things first,” said Eric Rassbach, senior counsel and vice president at Becket. “These players remained true to their faith but also stood up for their rights as Americans.”
Oakwood Adventist Academy was represented by Becket and the Seventh-day Adventist Church.
For more information or to arrange an interview with a Becket attorney, contact Ryan Colby at email@example.com or 202-349-7219. Interviews can be arranged in English, Mandarin, French, German, Portuguese, Russian, and Spanish.