Pope won seven of its first eight games and is now 10-6 overall.
Osborne lost its first two games of the season, but has since won 12 of its last 15.
The Yellow Jackets, Greyhounds and Cardinals are a combined 32-15 overall and 14-5 in Region 7AAAAA. With no other teams in the region sporting an overall record better than .500, the race for the No. 1 seed into the region tournament begins with these three teams.
“Overall record is misleading because of who you play out of region and when you play them,” Pope coach Pat Abney said. “We play for the region tournament seeding, and the tournament will determine who the best teams are, but if I did have to rate our region, the top three teams are us, Sprayberry and Osborne.”
Those three teams have quickly established themselves as the teams to beat in Region 7AAAAA.
Sprayberry is 12-4 overall and 6-0 in region play, including wins over Osborne and Pope. Meanwhile, Pope is 10-6, but 4-2 in the region with losses to Osborne and Sprayberry. Osborne is 12-5 with a 4-3 region record that includes losses to Sprayberry, North Springs and Kell.
“I knew our (subregion) was loaded, but I didn’t know there were so many teams below .500,” Abney said. “Kell is a good team, and obviously Osborne and Sprayberry are very talented. The three best teams are where they’re supposed to be.
“Osborne and Sprayberry have one or two very talented guys who can score. We have a balanced team, but across the board, I think the other schools have good teams. They just don’t have those stud players.”
The talent level appears to have dropped off in the region.
Last season, Sprayberry, Creekview and Sequoyah joined Pope in the state playoffs. Riverwood was on the outside looking in, sporting a 16-10 overall record and a 10-4 mark in region play.
This season, Creekview, Sequoyah and Riverwood are a combined 18-30 overall and 11-10 in the region.
“Creekview and Sequoyah definitely lost some pretty good players,” Sprayberry coach Marc Carver said. “That probably explains why they’re having a down year. But some of us are playing so well, I think, because we’re just more consistent than the other teams.
“There are no dominant teams. Our subregion seems to be stronger than the other side with us, Pope and Osborne at the top, but Kell’s good, too, and I could see any of us playing well to win the (region) tournament. We’re all pretty good, but it’s not like we’re beating teams by 20 points. We’re just more consistent.”
Like Abney and Carver, Osborne coach Emmett Rouse understands that success can be fleeting. Pope, Osborne and Sprayberry might be playing well now, but that can change on any given night.
“We’re all doing a pretty good job right now,” Rouse said, “but anybody can get beat. If you just look at the other teams who have three losses in the region, it means they’re all beating up on each other. The good thing for us, Pope and Sprayberry is that we’ve kind of been able to overcome that.”
Rouse credited the three teams’ returning players as the reason they’ve been able to take control of the subregion.
“We’re all playing well because we had more returners than everybody else,” he said. “Those guys are starting to jell, and it shows on the court.”