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Eye on POY: North Carolina girls basketball

The window on the Gatorade State Girls Basketball Player of the Year race is closing, and the search for elite student-athletes is in full swing. The award recognizes not only athletic excellence, but also high standards of academic achievement and exemplary character demonstrated on and off the field. Here are two top candidates who meet the basic award criteria as determined by our ESPNHS team that administers the program’s selection process.

Tiffany Mitchell

Senior guard, Providence Day School (Charlotte, N.C.)

2011-12 Team record: 29-4 (NCISAA Class 3A)

2011-12 Team standing: NCISAA Class 3A state champions

2011-12 Points per game: 19.8

2011-12 Rebounds per game: 6.9

2011-12 Assists per game: 2.9

2011-12 Blocks per game: 0.3

2011-12 Steals per game: 4.1

Academics: B-plus average

Collegiate destination: University of South Carolina

How she’s played herself into the State POY conversation: Amassed 20 points and nine rebounds in a 66-42 victory against Greensboro Day School (Greensboro, N.C.) in the NCISAA Class 3A state championship game. Faced opponents with a .622 winning percentage. Averaged 30.2 points, 10.5 rebounds, 6.3 steals and 4.4 assists per 32 minutes of action. Shooting 48.5 percent from the field, 24.5 percent from 3-point range and 67.1 percent from the free throw line. No. 46 ranked recruit in Class of 2012 as rated by ESPNHS. 2010 USA Basketball Women’s U17 World Championship Team trials roster. Two-time returning First Team All-State selection as named by the Associated Press. Three-time returning NCISAA Class 3A First Team All-State selection. 2010 and 2011 NCISAA Class 3A state champion. 2009 NCISAA Class 3A state runner-up.

Kristen Gaffney

Senior forward, Green Hope (Cary, N.C.)

2011-12 Team record: 26-2 (Class 4A)

2011-12 Team standing: Class 4A regional semifinal vs. South View on Wednesday

2011-12 Points per game: 28.1

2011-12 Rebounds per game: 9.1

2011-12 Assists per game: 2.0

2011-12 Blocks per game: 0.3

2011-12 Steals per game: 3.3

Academics: B-plus average

Collegiate destination: Vanderbilt University

How she’s played herself into the State POY conversation: Averaged 39 points and 10 rebounds in the first two rounds of the Class 4A state tournament before leaving a 54-45 district round victory against Hillside with a season-ending ACL injury. Her 28.1 points and 2.0 assists per game have produced 48.7 percent of Green Hope's 65.9 points per game. Shot 57.6 percent from the field, 33.6 percent from 3-point range and 65.3 percent from the free throw line. No. 75 ranked wing in Class of 2012 as rated by ESPNHS. Two-time Player of the Year as named by the Raleigh News & Observer. 2010 and 2011 First Team All-State selection as named by the Associated Press. 2010 and 2011 Class 4A First Team All-State selection. 2010 Class 4A state runner-up.

Make no mistake, the Gatorade State Girls Basketball Player of the Year race isn’t over yet. Time remains for one standout student-athlete among thousands to rise to the top of our list. Here are some more of many who’ve been in the conversation throughout the 2011-12 campaign.

Sidney Cook: Senior guard/forward, South View (Hope Mills, N.C.)

Briana Day: Junior forward, Millbrook (Raleigh, N.C.)

Lindsay Simpson: Senior point guard, Franklin (N.C.)

Jatarie White: Sophomore post, Providence Day School (Charlotte, N.C.)

Think we're missing a deserving Gatorade State Player of the Year candidate in your state? Let us know via e-mail at ESPNHS_GPOY@ESPN.com.