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Eye on POY: Minnesota 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.

Nia Coffey

Junior forward, Hopkins

(Minnetonka, Minn.)

2011-12 Team record: 23-1

(Class AAAA)

2011-12 Team standing: Class AAAA state tournament begins on March 15; No. 39 ranked team on ESPNHS FAB 50

2011-12 Points per game: 15.8

2011-12 Rebounds per game: 9.7

2011-12 Assists per game: 1.5

2011-12 Blocks per game: 1.7

2011-12 Steals per game: 3.3

Academics: A-minus average

Collegiate destination: Northwestern University (verbal)

How she’s played herself into the State POY conversation: Averaging 23.0 points, 14.1 rebounds, 4.8 steals, 2.5 blocks and 2.2 assists per 32 minutes. Shooting 46 percent from the field, 44 percent from 3-point range and 63 percent from the free throw line. No. 43 ranked recruit in Class of 2013 as rated by ESPNHS. 2011 USA Basketball Women’s U16 National Team trials roster. 2011 Honorable Mention All-State selection as named by the Associated Press. 2011 First Team All-Lake Conference selection. 2011 All-Tournament selection. 2011 Class AAAA state champion.

Rebekah Dahlman

Junior guard, Braham Area (Braham, Minn.)

2011-12 Team record: 25-1 (Class AA)

2011-12 Team standing: Class AA state tournament begins on March 15

2011-12 Points per game: 35.7

2011-12 Rebounds per game: 11.3

2011-12 Assists per game: 5.2

2011-12 Blocks per game: 0.7

2011-12 Steals per game: 7.0

Academics: A average

Collegiate destination: Undecided

How she’s played herself into the State POY conversation: Owns state career records for free throws made and free throws attempted. Only 338 points shy of the state scoring record through 21 games this season. Her 35.7 points and 5.2 assists produce 60.3 percent of Braham’s 76.5 points per game. No. 24 ranked recruit in Class of 2013 as rated by ESPNHS. 2011 Nike Nationals Seconds Team All-Tournament selection as named by ESPNHS. 2011 Class AA Player of the year as named by Minnesota Basketball News. 2010 and 2011 First Team All-State selection as named by the Associated Press. 2010 and 2011 All-Tournament selection. 2011 Class AA state champion. 2010 and 2011 Great River Conference Player of the Year.

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.

Kenisha Bell: Sophomore guard, Kennedy (Bloomington, Minn.)

Tessa Cichy: Senior guard, Hill-Murray School (Maplewood, Minn.)

Sydney Coffey: Senior guard, Hopkins (Minnetonka, Minn.)

Marissa Janning: Senior guard, Watertown-Mayer (Watertown, Minn.)

Jackie Johnson: Senior post, Eden Prairie (Minn.)

Shayne Mullaney: Senior guard, Eden Prairie (Minn.)

Brittany Scherber: Senior guard, Jefferson (Bloomington, Minn.)

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.