Saleem Little and Theo Holloway have been key players for Paulsboro High School basketball teams that have won 81 games, three Colonial Conference Patriot Division titles and two South Jersey Group 1 titles in the last three seasons.

They have grabbed key rebounds, made big steals and scored decisive points in dozens of high-profile games before capacity crowds in gymnasiums across South Jersey.

They have matured from wide-eyed freshmen to seasoned seniors, from complementary athletes to go-to players, from carefree followers with all the time in the world to urgent leaders who are on the clock.

"The only thing we haven't done together is win a state championship," Holloway said the other day during a break in practice in Paulsboro's little gymnasium.

The drive to accomplish the one thing that has eluded their considerable reach is a major motivation for Little and Holloway as they are set to begin their senior season as Paulsboro visits Lindenwold in a Colonial Patriot clash on Friday afternoon.

They bounced off the bench as fearless freshmen for a Paulsboro team that won its first 30 games - beating South Jersey large school and Non-Public powers alike along the way - during the 2011-12 season.

"I remember we were playing Rancocas Valley at Life Center," Paulsboro coach Sean Collins said. 'X' (star Xavier Lundy) fouls out, Theo comes off the bench and scores six points in the final minute as a freshman."

Little and Holloway were starters as sophomores for a team that won its second straight South Jersey Group 1 title before falling in the state semifinals for the second season in a row.

Last season, the duo led the Red Raiders to 25 victories, another Colonial Patriot title and a berth in the South Jersey Group 1 semifinals, where they fell to top-seeded Schalick.

"We've been playing together forever," Little said of himself and Holloway. "We won a couple championships when were little. Now we need to win a state championship as seniors.

"It's our last year together."

If anything, the realization that they likely will never play together again is as much a driving force for Little and Holloway as the lack of a state championship on their long list of accomplishments.

These guys didn't get together as freshmen. They grew up as close friends in Paulsboro and they were the headliners of dominant teams that lost one game, total, when they were in seventh and eighth grade.

"All they know is winning," Collins said. "I think they've lost like 10 games in the last six years. And that's playing everybody in South Jersey."

They almost certainly will go their separate ways next year. Holloway is coming off a strong summer playing with Team Speed on the AAU circuit and has drawn recruiting interest from a number of college programs.

The 6-foot-4 Holloway also could generate Division I college interest as a football wide receiver, as he grabbed 32 passes for 500 yards and seven touchdowns - while also making 97 tackles and eight sacks as a defensive end - for the Red Raiders' South Jersey Group 1 championship squad in the fall.

The 6-foot-4 Little looks to be fully recovered from a nagging back ailment that ultimately required surgery and limited his ability to play basketball over the last couple of summers.

"He's going to have a monster year," said Collins, who believes Little will draw serious recruiting interest from area Division II programs.

The countless practices, games and informal workouts that Little and Holloway have shared on the basketball court have created a rare rapport between the two athletes.

"I said it before, I know what move Theo is going to make before he makes it," Little said.

Said Holloway: "We're like brothers."

Both athletes marvel at the speed at which their careers have passed.

"It's crazy," Holloway said. "It seems like yesterday we were freshmen."

Said Little, "I still remember scoring my first varsity points, right on this court, against Audubon. Now I'm a senior. It's hard to believe."

Sometime in March, the final buzzer will sound for Little and Holloway on their careers as high school basketball players.

When they were freshmen, they couldn't have imagined that day would ever come. As seniors, they know well enough to anticipate its arrival.

But they still have one more season together to add to their legacy, further cement their bond and tend to one last bit of unfinished business.

panastasia@phillynews.com

@PhilAnastasia

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