And the Crusaders hoped they learned the lessons that may have given the Bearcats the edge in emerging with a 61-52 victory at Saxony High School.
"I think every single one of us has learned something from this game," said Saxony freshman Brianna Mueller, who finished with 11 points. "We knew coming into this game that this will probably be the best team we play all year and everyone would have to be at the top of our game to compete with these guys ... I think we played very well tonight."
The Crusaders had been beating up on some competition pretty badly during their streak.
"We won't play anybody in our class, I don't think, as good as Dexter," Saxony coach Sam Sides said. "It was a good challenge. I'd been looking forward to it since the beginning of the season. ... It's friction that sharpens the blade."
The Crusaders, who have started four freshmen most of the season, found plenty of friction in the Bearcats' 6-foot senior Brittany Harris and her seasoned teammates. Harris recently broke Dexter's career scoring mark and added 22 points to her record against the Crusaders.
"They're strong, big girls and will keep you contained," said Saxony freshman Raegan Wieser, who finished with a team-high 13 points. "We've been up against Central and Notre Dame, and they're both good teams, but we knew this is one of the best teams in the state."
Harris opened the scoring with a turnaround jumper in the lane just 10 seconds into the game to spark a 7-0 spurt, and it looked like the Crusaders might be in well over their heads.
Dexter hit three 3-pointers in the first quarter, but the Crusaders managed to play the Bearcats even over the remainder of the period. Dexter took a 17-10 lead into the second quarter and quickly had Saxony on the ropes.
The Crusaders committed 10 of their 17 turnovers of the game in the second quarter. At one point Saxony committed turnovers on five consecutive possessions against Dexter's physical man pressure and matchup zone. The Bearcats went on an 8-0 spurt during the span to open a 25-13 lead.
"They did a good job of clamping down," Sides said. "We tried to force things a few times and threw some bad passes."
Saxony managed just four shots from the field in the quarter and hit just one. The Crusaders converted on six of seven free throws while Dexter cooled off from the field and took a 29-19 lead into halftime.
Saxony apparently was saving its offense for the third quarter as the Crusaders unexpectedly unleashed 25 of their 52 points in the period. They fired 16 shots and connected on 11.
The Crusaders trailed 38-27 when Wieser started a 13-0 run with a 3-point basket with 4:21 left in the third quarter. Wieser later added a second trey as the Crusaders scored on six consecutive possessions. Maddie Brune gave Saxony its first lead of the game when she scored her only points of the night on a fastbreak layup with 2:49 left in the period.
Lauren Hecht completed the run with a drive inside on Saxony's next possession for a 41-38 lead.
Dexter (17-2) then showed its maturity and poise, founded in games like Saturday's 55-50 loss to St. Joseph's Academy.
"Thank goodness we've been playing some pretty tough competition because tonight could have been a different story," Dexter coach Chad Allen said. "I thought our girls kept their composure, especially right down there toward the end. They fought back and regained the lead and ended up extending the lead."
Dexter regained the lead on a conventional three-point play by Katelynn Frazier that capped a 5-0 spurt, but Saxony pulled even at 43-43 when freshman Ashlynn Collier deposited her own missed shot with 38 seconds left in the period.
Erika Cobb answered with an outside basket with 15 seconds left to put Dexter ahead 45-43, and the Bearcats took a 45-44 lead into the fourth quarter.
Saxony could not sustain its hot shooting over the final eight minutes, hitting just 2 of 11 shots. The Bearcats opened the quarter with a 10-2 run as they pushed the ball inside to Harris and junior Paige Patterson, who combined for 10 points in the period.