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Friday, March 17, 2017: Espinoza-Hunter, Patterson share Miss Basketball honor

   Leading off today: Andra Espinoza-Hunter and Danielle Patterson have been selected co-recipients of the 2017 Miss New York Basketball Award, the Basketball Coaches Association of New York announced this morning.

   Espinoza-Hunter is averaging 38 points and 7 rebounds per game for four-time defending champion Ossining entering the NYSPHSAA semifinals this weekend in Troy. She is a former member of the USA Basketball Women's U16 National Team and earlier this week was selected as the state's player of the year by Gatorade.

   She has committed to play for the University of Connecticut next season.

   Patterson, a Notre Dame recruit, led The Mary Louis Academy to the school's first CHSAA Brooklyn-Queens title. She has averaged 24 points and 15 rebounds per game heading into next weekend's Federation tournament in Glens Falls. Her other honors this season include being the state's only player (male or female) selected to play in the 2017 McDonald's All-American Game.

   Espinoza-Hunter is the second Ossining standout to win Miss Basketball recognition. Saniya Chong, who is completing her UConn career this season, was selected in 2013.

   Dominique Toussaint of Christ the King was honored as Miss New York Basketball a year ago. (Full list here)

   The only previous instance of co-recipients of the Miss Basketball awards was in 1995, when Caryn Schoff of St. Johnsville and Chamique Holdsclaw of Christ the King were selected.

   NYSED news: It's not nearly headline fodder on the level of the storm that buried a chunk of New York this week and won't generate the excitement of the basketball tournaments in Binghamton and Troy this weekend, but there was a significant update from the New York State Education Department this week.

   Meeting on Monday, the New York State Board of Regents opted not to take up discussion just yet on the "duration of competition" rule, which State Education Commissioner MaryEllen Elia has proposed altering. That has to do with a recent revision to the proposal that likely makes potential changes to the existing rule more palatable to key stakeholders -- namely superintendents in the state's hundreds of school districts.

   The (relatively) short story:

   Elia's original proposal restored the phrase "other circumstances beyond the student's control" to the list of reasons that a student under the age of 19 at the start of the school year could be allowed an additional season of eligibility in their sport beyond the normal "four-year clock" beginning with ninth grade.

   That provision existed until 2014 but for a long time it was more or less understood that "other circumstances beyond the student's control" still had to relate at least marginally to illness or injury. Over the years, appeals began chipping away at that interpretation to the point anarchy was on the horizon, and the NYSPHSAA successfully moved to strike the those six troublesome words from its rulebook.

   Restoring the provision generally placed complicated yea/nay decisions on individual appeals into the hands of the superintendent of the district in question. It would be entirely possible for superintendents in neighboring districts to rule differently on essentially identical appeals having nothing to do with illness or injury -- which were the only generally accepted exceptions to the duration of competition rule.

   However, the substantial pushback on Elia's proposed change has resulted in new wording, hence the Regents' delay in taking up the matter until at least June. The key clause in the proposal has now been re-written as:

   "If sufficient evidence is presented by the chief school officer to the section to show that the pupil's failure to enter competition during one or more seasons of a sport was caused by illness, or accident, or documented social/emotional condition or documented social/emotional circumstances beyond the control of the pupil such pupil's eligibility shall be extended accordingly in that sport."

   That change of wording appears to take most if not all of non-medical appeals (many of which have been dubious, if we're to be honest about it) off the table. It would also require credible documentation from medical professionals, a standard already applied by superintendents in many other day-to-day matters.

   Time will tell whether school and athletic association administrators find the revision acceptable, but it does seem to be a step toward assuring better consistency if the existing rule does end up getting changed.

   New cleanup planned: If you thought shoveling two feet of snow was bad, ponder this:

   Two Royalton-Hartland softball fields will be excavated this spring in the latest phase of the removal of arsenic from the soil in Middleport, where an FMC Corp. agricultural chemical plant reportedly had used the chemical for decades, The Buffalo News reported.

   One diamond will be dug up beginning in May and the second will be handled over the summer, the state Department of Environmental Conservation announced.

   In 2015, a Roy-Hart field hockey field was excavated. Last summer, the DEC removed soil from the high school's inner courtyard and other areas southwest of the high school. More work on the campus is anticipated.

   FMC signed a consent order in 1991 pledging to pay for all the remediations, but it stopped paying in 2013 after filing a lawsuit over how much soil was to be excavated, the paper reported.

   Following up: There was a bit of a story behind the story when North Rockland's boys won a NYSPHSAA bowling championship and the girls placed second March 4, The Journal News reports.

   The morning after the tournaments, the North Rockland delegation returned home from Rochester for the wake of friend and competitor, Brandon Smith, a 17-year-old Clarkstown junior who died the Monday preceding the tournament. Smith had been selected as The Journal News' Rockland boys bowler of the year a year ago after placing ninth in individual competition at the NYSPHSAA meet.

   The North Rockland boys erased a 93-pin deficit in the final game to win by a single pin. When they posed for a team photo afterward, bowlers and coaches collectively pointed to the sky as tribute to their friend.

   Extra points: Point guard Howard Washington, an all-state basketball selection in 2014 for Canisius, has committed to play at Syracuse University next season. Washington left Western New York for national powerhouse Montverde Academy and then moved on to Athlete Institute Basketball Academy in Mono, Ontario, and reclassified to the class of 2017.

   He'd signed a National Letter of Intent at one point with Butler University but was later released from that commitment.

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