Now they're trying to make up for lost time.
Dexter is now one win away from the Class 4 Final Four after Wednesday night's thrilling come-from-behind victory, defeating No. 2 state-ranked DeSoto 45-42 in a sectional game at Mineral Area College.
Dexter moves on to the Class 4 Quarterfinals where they will play Lutheran South (16-13) on Saturday at 8:15 p.m. at the Farmington Civic Center.
Trailing 40-35 with less than four minutes to go, Dexter was able to close out the game with a 10-2 run.
"We've been down in quite a few ballgames this year," said Dexter head coach Eric Sitze. "We've been down 11 points at Bloomfield and we've showed courage each time and come back. So these guys were never out of it tonight even when they were down five late, they showed a lot of character and heart and played hard. It was probably a sloppy ballgame, but what an exciting ballgame."
Leading 40-35, DeSoto's Josh McCullough missed a wide open 3-pointer from the top of the key that would've given the Dragons an eight-point lead with 3:50 to go.
Dexter's Josh Miller, who was held scoreless through the first three quarters, finally connected on his first field goal from the right elbow with 3:35 left in the game to cut the lead to 40-37.
Thirty-five seconds later, Dexter's Derek Roberts hit his first field goal on a reverse layup to cut the score to 40-39.
A Pat Henry layup extended the DeSoto lead to 42-39, but two Derek Demaree free throws cut the Dragon advantage to 42-41 with 2:18 left.
After a missed one-and-one free throw attempt by Henry, Demaree gave the Bearcats the lead on an offensive putback with 1:27 left.
Demaree then came up big again, this time on the defensive end as he blocked 6-foot-8 Tony Boyle's shot attempt.
The Bearcats (22-6) recovered the rebound and went into the delay game before the Dragons fouled Chris Guethle with 28 seconds left.
Guethle missed both free throws, which gave DeSoto another chance to win the game.
With time winding down and the near capacity crowd on its feet, DeSoto (26-3) appeared discombobulated.
With less than 10 seconds remaining, DeSoto's 6-7 senior Anthony Thebeau drove to the basket but missed a five-foot shot. He tried to grab his own rebound but went over Miller's back and got called for the foul with 2.6 seconds left.
Miller canned both free throws to make it 45-42.
DeSoto sophomore Kevin Baisch was able to get off a shot from halfcourt but it sailed harmlessly over the backboard. Dexter's players stormed the court in celebration.
"Everybody said it would be a track meet and it definitely wasn't a track meet," said DeSoto head coach Allen Davis. "I thought our defense prevailed on that. Our kids have nothing to hang their heads about. If we make the layup, if they don't call two charges, you never know what could've happened. Anybody could've won the game."
One of the stories of the game was DeSoto's inability to handle Dexter's 2-2-1 full-court zone press, which the Bearcats used to cause numerous turnovers throughout the night.
"We were rattled from the beginning of the game," said Davis. "We shouldn't have been -- we worked on it all week. We kept throwing the ball to the middle and our goal was not to throw it to the middle of the floor, because we knew they tipped behind. We scouted them, but we kept throwing the ball to the middle of the floor."
Neither team shot very well from the field and both missed crucial free throws down the stretch.
Dexter, which has shot 74 percent from the line as a team this season, made just 9-of-17 on Wednesday. DeSoto was just 5-of-11 from the line.
"You've got to be able to handle the ball and you've got to make free throws," said Davis. "That's what it comes down to. We weren't shooting free throws very well all year long -- I would say that's what came back and got us."
DeSoto came out of the gates on fire, taking a 10-0 lead to start the game.
A Guethle 3-pointer at the 4:37 mark finally broke the ice for the Bearcats, cutting the lead to 10-3.
Considering it was the first playoff game ever for Dexter's players, Sitze said nervousness played a role.
"We were hesitating on shots that we usually just catch and fire," said Sitze. "There was a lot of hesitation tonight. I think that had a lot to do with the way we shot the ball. We just need to refocus. Hopefully we got our playoff jitters out of our system and come out and play a little more fluid Saturday."
DeSoto still led 14-4 in the first quarter, but a 10-2 run by Dexter cut the lead to 16-14 after one.
DeSoto maintained the lead through most of the second quarter. Demaree tied the score for the first time at the 2:17 mark. A Demaree 3-pointer with 1:30 left in the half gave the Bearcats their first lead of the game, which they held 24-23 at halftime.
Demaree finished with a team-high 23 points, including three 3-pointers.
Boyle led all scorers with 27 points.
No other player for either team reached double figures.
"We knew that (Demaree) could shoot out there and had the range to do that," said Davis. "I thought we had the answer for him with Tony Boyle, and we did. I wasn't too worried about Demaree scoring because I knew Tony would match him. I just thought our other kids would step up and make a few buckets. We struggled, but they play great 'D'."
Dexter led by as much as four on two different occasions in the third quarter. They led 33-31 heading into the fourth.
The Dragons started off the fourth quarter on a 9-2 run to open up their five-point lead, setting up the dramatic finish.
Demaree, despite the big scoring night, shot uncharacteristically bad from the free throw line, making just 4-of-9, including a missed one-and-one.
"Offensively we didn't have a very good game tonight," said Sitze. "I think that's great for us, that we can beat a DeSoto team like this and not have our best night. That ought to make us feel good about ourselves."