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Friday, March 24, 2017

Major concern about young girls in D.C.

The sports world has to stop spinning for a few minutes to address a more serious issue. March Madness has to take a backseat. The NHL playoff push is secondary for now. Opening Day of the Major League Baseball season is approaching, but right now, it can wait.

The major news of the day coming out of our nation's capital has nothing to do with whether the Republicans had enough votes to overthrow the Obamacare medical insurance program, although if you watch all the cable news networks, that's all you will find on the air. House Speaker Paul Ryan has received more air time today than even Press Secretary Sean Spicer.

But the names that should be more relevant belong to teenage girls of African-American and Latino descent. They are 13-year-old Yahshaiyah Enoch and Aniya McNeil, 15-year-old Juliana Otero, Jacqueline Lassey, Dashann Trikia Wallace, Dayana White and Morgan Richardson, and 16-year-old Talisha Coles.

These names are not household names by any stretch, but right now they should be. Because these young ladies have gone missing in Washington. They've all vanished over the last three days. These are just eight names of the 13 young ladies that were reported missing over the last three days in our nation's capital.

It's unfathomable to think that so many teenagers could be missing in such a short time frame, all from the same backgrounds, the same neighborhoods. Thirteen teenage girls have gone missing in a three-day span  from our nation's capital. That should be the headlines. That should get most of our attention.

It shouldn't be whether Obamacare stays in effect and the Republicans go back to the drawing board to find a more suitable alternative. Right now, politics has to play second fiddle in our nation's capital. There's a serious epidemic of missing teenagers and for some reason, it's not drawing a lot of attention on the news networks.

If it were just one or two girls, then I might think it was a case of disgruntled teens taking a hiatus from their parents. But 13? No, this is major reason for concern tonight, because we may have a sick and deprived individual doing some hideous things. Maybe there are more than one of these fiends. Who knows?

But right now, that should be the focus of our attention. It should be assisting the Washington police department in finding these young ladies, offering assistance in terms of information of where these girls might be. It's time for collective prayers and solemn thoughts, because this is an epidemic. This is not a case of runaways. Frankly, there will not be a happy ending to this story.

It should be the focus, the lead story, the reason why anyone would turn on the news at this hour. We should all do whatever we can to help the people of Washington find these missing girls alive. Even people who live in the state of Washington instead of the District of Columbia. We should be giving whatever kinds of assistance we could give to find these young ladies.

I don't think there will be a happy ending here. I just don't understand why the news coverage has been so limited. We've been deluged with President Donald Trump's saga every day since he took the Oath of Office, so swamped with Trump that the entire news cycle has almost forgotten these missing ladies.

Let's all hope and pray that there's some semblance of good that comes out of these missing girls in Washington. It's really a sick and sad situation _ far worse than any politician sticking out his chest and making a dramatic stand about a health care policy.


Now, a bit about sports.

Although there haven't been a host of buzzer beaters and nail biters in March Madness this year, there has been some excellent performances. Xavier of Cincinnati, who almost didn't get into the field of 68 and was the last of the No. 11 seeds not sent to play in the First Four games in Dayton, mainly because of the proximity of the schools, has stunned the world with their three wins to get to the Elite Eight.

The Musketeers, guided by brilliant head coach Chris Mack, have defeated Maryland, Florida State and now No. 3 seed Arizona to get to the Elite Eight. Junior guard Trevon Bluiett has been absolutely sensational and is making everyone stand up and take notice. This is a team that lost six straight games in February, the worst stretch the program has endured in 35 years.

I went to Milwaukee in February to see Marquette play Xavier and the game wasn't even competitive. The Golden Eagle Warriors won by 22 (83-61), but it was far worse that that. Bluiett was benched for that game with a sore strained ankle. Bluiett, the son of parents who are both products of the U.S. Marine Corps and met when they were serving in the Marines, had to do whatever he could to get back onto the floor and help his team.

Myles Davis, a senior guard, a local product who once played for my high school alma mater St. Peter's Prep, had a phenomenal career at Xavier, but became disgruntled this season and quit the team. Davis had to sit out the first half of the season due to misdemeanor criminal charges hung over his head. Davis ranks as one of the school's all-time leading scorers, but he was done. Edmond Sumner, the starting point guard, blew out his knee on the final day of January and he was done. The team then lost six straight. They were dead in the water.

But somehow, the Musketeers have strung together three straight wins and knocked off the mighty Arizona Wildcats, who have two absolute studs on their team in Allonzo Trier and the Finnish sensation Lauri Markkanen, but somehow Bluiett and his boys get a chance to dance Saturday night against top-seeded Gonzaga for the right to go to the Final Four in Arizona.

Xavier with its 24-13 record, became the eighth team seeded 11th or lower to reach the Elite Eight. Only three. Only three of those No. 11 seeds have gone on to the Final Four in NCAA tournament history, namely VCU (2011), George Mason (2006) and LSU (1986). It's really a remarkable story.

Now we have the great Kentucky-UCLA matchup tonight, perhaps the best game of the tourney thus far.

The recent snowstorm set the scholastic spring sports season back, forcing teams to work out in hallways and basements and classrooms, anywhere they could to get some semblance of a workout in to get ready for next Saturday's Opening Day.

Can you imagine being a baseball player and having to go out in this cold and wind and try to prove yourself to the coach to make a roster? It was so depressing for adults. I can't imagine what it felt like for the players.

Right now, they have eight days to prepare for their first game. Some teams barely got outdoors during that time. But eight days to get ready. Not exactly a lot of time at all.

But this trusty reporter will be ready for the 35th high school baseball season of his career. The first stint with the Daily Record in the spring of 1983 brings back names like Jerry Hug and Jim Price of Montville and Erik Peterson of Newton and Mike Sebesto of Parsippany. It conjures up the thoughts of the gigantic bugs at Lurker Park, bugs that were almost the size of baseballs. You could go to a game at Mount Olive or Morris Knolls and the game would begin in 75 degree temperatures and it would be 35 by the seventh inning. But it was all thrilling Morris County baseball, coverage that continued on into the summer with American Legion and Morris County Majors. It really was a great time. I can't believe 35 years have gone by.

Here's to hoping that something good comes out of Washington with those missing girls. I will say an extra prayer tonight for their safety.
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