Photo: AP
Photo: AP

Class AA blog: My encounter with Kobe; Week 13 rankings rundown

Before we get started with the regularly scheduled blog, I wanted to take a moment to recall my only encounter with NBA legend Kobe Bryant, who was killed Sunday in a helicopter crash.

Back in either 2005 or '06, I got to cover the Lakers-Hawks game for the now-defunct The Sunday Paper, an Atlanta free weekly. I had an all-access press pass, so after the game I went to the Lakers locker room to interview Kobe.

There was a mob of reporters standing at one end of the locker room and I was standing to myself on the other side. Kobe emerged and walked straight to me, sending the rest of the media scurrying toward us. That meant I got first question.

During the game, Kobe got the ball on a breakaway and threw down a two-handed windmill dunk and the crowd went crazy. So in the locker room, I asked him if, based on the crowd reaction, it felt like he was playing a home game.

He could have said anything but gave a thoughtful answer, something to the effect of:

"No, actually it didn't feel like a home game. Atlanta has always been good to me. Warrick Dunn is a friend of mine, and he gave me tickets to their game against the Eagles because I'm an Eagles fan. I always enjoy coming here."

I’ve since talked with — and listened to and read in the media about — other people he’s interacted with. He could engage anyone thoughtfully, and even in other languages. Even if he only spent a few moments with someone and never saw them again, he could leave a lasting impression. That is how I’ll choose to remember him.

RIP Kobe.

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Every Sunday, the AJC releases its top 10 polls for both the boys and girls. Here’s a rundown of Class AA’s ranked teams and where they stand at this point in the season.

Boys

1. Therrell (17-6)

Region record: 11-1 in Region 6 (first place)

Notes: The Panthers suffered a 55-52 defeat to No. 4 Douglass over the weekend, their first region loss. That capped a 2-1 week that saw wins over Lanier (Ala.), 72-64, and Washington, 70-48. They’ll close the regular season this week against Hapeville Charter (9-14, 3-9) on the road Tuesday, and South Atlanta (12-8, 8-4) at home on Friday. The Panthers beat Hapeville 55-42 on Dec. 13 and edged South Atlanta 58-54 on Dec. 17.

2. Swainsboro (20-2)

Region record: 11-1 in Region 2 (first place)

Notes: The Tigers’ 3-0 week was punctuated by a 97-53 blowout of No. 3 Jeff Davis, which served as redemption of Jeff Davis’ 71-68 win over them in December. The Tigers also beat Bryan County 93-22 and Jefferson County 69-50. They’re on an eight-game win streak as they close out the regular season with home games against Metter (14-8, 6-6) on Tuesday and Toombs County (5-17, 2-10) on Friday. The’ve already blown out both teams.

3. Jeff Davis (17-6)

Region record: 10-2 in Region 2 (second place)

Notes: The Yellow Jackets keep their No. 3 ranking despite their 97-53 loss to No. 2 Swainsboro, which was proceeded by a 66-53 win over Vidalia. They close the regular season with road games against Bacon County (7-10, 4-7) on Tuesday and Woodville-Tompkins (11-11, 6-5) on Friday. They edged Bacon County 78-76 on Jan. 7 and beat Woodville-Tompkins 70-39 on Jan. 10.

4. Douglass (19-4)

Region record: 10-2 in Region 6 (second place)

Notes: The Astros moved up four spots in the polls with their 55-52 win over top-ranked Therrell last week. Three days earlier, they beat Hapeville Charter 55-54. They close the regular season at South Atlanta (12-8, 8-4)  on Tuesday and against McNair (2-17, 0-11) at home on Friday. They beat South Atlanta 41-35 on Dec. 13 and McNair 79-45 on Dec. 17.

5. Glenn Hills (16-7)

Region record: 12-2 in Region 4 (first place)

Notes: The Spartans played just one game last week, struggling to beat a Josey team, 57-54, that came in 2-10 in region play. They play twice this week to close out the regular season, starting at No. 8 Laney (17-6, 10-4) on Tuesday followed by Hephzibah (13-8, 8-5) at home on Friday. They beat Laney 66-61 on Dec. 17 and Hephzibah 71-66 on Dec. 20.

6. Butler (14-5)

Region record: 10-3 in Region 4 (second place)

Notes: The Bulldogs beat Jefferson County 62-56 in their only game last week and close their regular season at home against Westside (11-9, 8-5) on Tuesday, on the road against Josey (5-17, 2-11) on Friday and at home against Hephzibah (13-8, 8-5) on Saturday. They beat Westside 64-60 on Dec. 17, Josey 66-54 on Jan. 18 and Hephzibah 55-52 on Jan. 3.

7. Spencer (17-3)

Region record: 10-0 in Region 5 (first place)

Notes: The Green Wave Owls posted three blowout wins over Callaway (88-46), Bremen (87-34) and Jordan (117-75). They close the regular season at Lamar County (4-16, 3-7) on Tuesday and at home against Heard County (6-16, 4-6) on Friday. They beat Lamar County 106-60 on Jan. 11 and Heard County 87-37 on Dec. 13.

8. Laney (17-6)

Region record: 10-4 in Region 4 (third place)

Notes: The Wildcats had a bend-but-don’t-break week, going 3-0 with wins over Cross Creek (75-71), Jefferson County (45-38) and Westside (80-74 in OT). They close the regular season at home against No. 5 Glenn Hills (16-7, 12-2) on Tuesday and at Harlem (7-11, 3-10) on Saturday. They lost to Glenn Hills 66-61 on Dec. 17 and 68-55 on Dec. 28, and beat Harlem 66-36 on Jan. 3.

9. Dublin (20-2)

Region record: 11-0 in Region 3 (first place)

Notes: The Fighting Irish went 3-0 last week with wins over Southwest (57-37), Northeast (73-40) and Wilkinson County (62-58). They close out the regular season with road games against Washington County on Friday and A-Public’s No. 1 Treutlen (21-0) on Saturday. They lost to Treutlen 50-42 on Dec. 28, and beat Washington County 46-44 on Jan. 7.

10. Thomasville (18-3)

Region record: 6-0 in Region 1 (first place)

Notes: The Bulldogs beat Early County (62-52) and Berrien (46-34) last week and close their regular season with road games against Fitzgerald (6-16, 4-2) on Friday and Brooks County (7-15, 3-4) on Saturday. They beat Brooks County 66-49 on Jan. 3 and Fitzgerald 67-59 on Jan. 17.

Girls

1. Laney (21-2)

Region record: 14-0 in Region 4 (first place)

Notes: The Lady Wildcats are 3-0 with wins against Clarke Central (78-49), Jefferson County (87-45) and Westside (90-21). They close out the season at home against Glenn Hills (0-15, 0-12) on Tuesday and at Harlem (5-11, 3-10) on Saturday. They beat Glenn Hills 83-19 on Dec. 17 and Harlem 86-44 on Jan. 3.

2. Early County (18-4)

Region record: 7-0 in Region 1 (first place)

Notes: The Lady Bobcats went 3-0 last week with wins against Brooks County (78-36), Thomasville (72-38) and Fitzgerald (76-49). They close out their regular season at A-Public’s Terrell County (6-10) on Tuesday, against Berrien (8-13, 1-5) at home on Friday and at A-Public’s Miller County (4-14) on Saturday. They beat Terrell County 63-18 on Jan. 14, Berrien 74-26 on Jan. 17 and Miller County 75-20 on Dec. 20.

3. Rabun County (21-1)

Region record: 11-1 in Region 8 (tied for first place)

Notes: The Lady Wildcats went 3-0 with wins over Elbert County (69-55), Union County (72-39) and Monticello (56-13). They close their regular season at Social Circle (6-15, 3-9) on Tuesday and Putnam County (20-2, 11-1) on Friday. They beat Social Circle 62-15 on Jan. 7 and lost 58-54 to Putnam County on Jan. 10. 

4. Putnam County (20-2)

Region record: 11-1 in Region 8 (tied for first place)

Notes: The Lady War Eagles went 3-0 last week with wins over Oglethorpe County (62-10), Monticello (43-13) and Union County (58-47). They host Elbert County on Tuesday and, with a win, will play at Rabun County on Friday for the No. 1 seed in next week’s 8-AA tournament. They beat Elbert County 54-48 on Jan. 7, and beat Rabun County 58-54 on Jan. 10.

5. Southwest-Macon (18-2)

Region record: 9-1 in Region 3 (first place)

Notes: The Lady Patriots went 3-0 last week with wins against Dublin (64-26), Washington County (49-31) and Central (58-20). They close the regular season at home against East Laurens (13-8, 7-3) on Tuesday and at Bleckley County (8-13, 4-6) on Friday. They beat East Laurens 69-55 on Jan. 4 and Bleckley County 36-31 on Jan. 7.

6. Douglass (16-5)

Region record: 12-0 in Region 6 (first place)

Notes: The Lady Astros went 2-0 last week with wins over Hapeville Charter (61-36) and Therrell (63-40). They close their regular season at South Atlanta (13-9, 9-3) on Tuesday and McNair on Friday. They beat South Atlanta 50-36 on Dec. 13 and McNair 73-15 on Dec. 17. 

7. Vidalia (18-4)

Region record: 12-2 in Region 2 (tied for first place)

Notes: The Lady Indians went 2-0 last week with wins over Jeff Davis (45-42) and No. 10 Bryan County (52-32) and they’ll close the regular season out at Toombs County (5-17, 2-12) on Tuesday and Metter (9-13, 5-9) at home on Friday. They beat Toombs County 53-32 on Jan. 7 and Metter 60-45 on Jan. 10.

8. Josey (17-4)

Region record: 10-2 in Region 4 (second place)

Notes: Last week, the Lady Eagles beat Norcross 49-42 and forfeited their game with Glenn Hills. They close their regular season with home games against Jefferson County (9-12, 8-5) on Tuesday and Butler (14-7, 10-3) on Friday, and on the road against Screven County (8-15, 4-10) on Saturday. Josey beat Jefferson County 57-25 on Jan. 4, Butler 45-44 on Jan. 18 and Screven County 67-12 on Jan. 3.

9. Washington County (17-4)

Region record: 8-2 in Region 3 (second place)

Notes: The Lady Golden Hawks beat Dodge County (69-27), Southwest (49-31) and Hancock Central (64-34) last week and will close their regular season with home games against Northeast (17-6, 6-4) on Tuesday and Dublin (6-15, 1-10) on Friday. They beat Northeast 49-44 on Jan. 4 and Dublin 60-37 on Jan. 7.

10. Bryan County (19-4)

Region record: 12-2 in Region 2 (tied for first)

Notes: The Lady Redskins beat Swainsboro (47-30) and lost to No. 7 Vidalia (52-32) last week. They close their regular season at home against Woodville-Tompkins (13-9, 10-3) on Tuesday and at Bacon County (5-14, 2-11) on Friday. They beat Woodville-Tompkins 67-49 on Jan. 7 and Bacon County 79-25 on Jan. 10.

Follow the AJC’s Class AA coverage on Twitter.

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