GEORGETOWN — Defending 11th Region boys' high school basketball champ Scott County wasn't getting much respect a couple weeks ago when it was 9-9 and fell out of the top 25 for the first time in what seemed like forever.
The Cardinals' 81-70 loss to district rival Bryan Station on Jan. 16 may have been their low point of the season.
But since then Scott County has found its mojo. Going into Tuesday night's rematch with Bryan Station, it had won four in a row, including an upset of Wayne County in the finals of the Toyota Classic, and climbed back to No. 15 in the ratings.
The Cards' continued their surge by beating No. 12 Bryan Station 72-67. Isaiah Johnson and Clarien Washington had 16 points apiece to lead the winners. Hines Jones had 14 points, including 5-for-6 free throw shooting in the last 34 second to seal the victory.
Tay Guyn contributed 10 points and 11 rebounds off the bench.
"I thought they looked 10 times better than the last time we played them," Bryan Station Coach Tommy Johnson said.
What's the secret to Scott County's turnaround?
"We've become a team," Coach Billy Hicks said. "We got blindsided a couple times this season, but we've regrouped. Our defense is better and the kids have learned to battle."
Jones, a 6-foot-2 senior, said he "heard all that stuff" about how the Cards weren't a strong threat in the region.
"It's understandable," he said. "Obviously, this is a different year and we have to prove ourselves."
They proved plenty Tuesday night.
"This definitely shows our progression as a team, and it shows we can compete with anybody," Jones said.
"We're finally learning the system and having fun."
Scott County had to fend off the Defenders down the stretch. Bryan Station rallied from a 62-57 deficit with less than four minutes left to take the lead twice, the last time at 65-64 on Tequan Claitt's rebound basket with 1:23 left.
Washington's putback pushed Scott County ahead 66-65, and after Bryan Station missed two free throws, Jones cashed two from the line to make it 68-65.
Claitt answered for Bryan Station with a driving layup, but he was whistled for a charge, taken by Jones. That did it for the Defenders.
C.J. Walker led Bryan Station with 15 points. Ronnie Carson had 12 points before fouling out with 1:57 left. A former star at East Jessamine, Carson enrolled at Scott County to start the school year, but then transferred to Bryan Station. He was ruled eligible a couple weeks ago.
Deandre Dishman had 12 points, and Andre Davis had 11 for the Defenders. Claitt had eight points and 10 rebounds.
Johnson credited Scott County's defense, which limited Bryan Station to 39 percent shooting.
"They made it tough for us to finish at the rim, which the past couple games we've been harping on and doing well."
Johnson never bought the notion that Scott County wouldn't be a strong contender in the region.
"Billy's going to coach those guys till the end, and he'll make sure they're moving in the right direction.
"We've gotta make sure we're moving in the right direction, too."
Scott Co. 72, Bryan Station 67
Bryan Station (17-5) — Davis 11, Walker 15, Dishman 12, Owsley 1, Claitt 8, Dunn 4, Carson 12, Sturgis 2, Caldwell 2.
Scott County (14-9) — Washington 16, Johnson 16, Jones 14, Banks 5, Guyn 10, Robb 9, Watts 2.
Bryan Station 16 13 18 20—67
Scott County 11 19 21 21—72