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Chaminade senior guard Keith Higgins Jr. and Kenneth Simpson Jr.

Chaminade senior guards Keith Higgins Jr., left, and Kenneth Simpson Jr. have been starters since they were freshmen and teammates since third grade. (Eric Sondheimer / Los Angeles Times)

With the Southern Section basketball playoffs beginning this week, it’s time to show appreciation for the lasting legacy created by the duo of Keith Higgins Jr. and Kenneth Simpson Jr. of West Hills Chaminade.

They met as first-graders at Vintage Elementary School. There was a pencil on the ground. Simpson picked it up.

“He dropped it,” Simpson said.

“He stole it,” Higgins said.

The rest is history. The guards played on the same teams since third grade. In an era when players sometimes are never satisfied and move from school to school seeking greener pastures, these best friends were determined to be examples of a different time when loyalty mattered and faith in your own skills counted most.

They placed trust in their partnership, pushing each other, relying on each other and motivating each other. They view themselves as brothers, so comfortable that they’ll say or do anything to support the other. They’ve fulfilled their greatest expectations on and off the court.

Simpson is headed to Colorado; Higgins is headed to Lehigh. Simpson has become Chaminade’s all-time scoring leader. Higgins set a school record with 51 points earlier this month.

They will do their best to help Chaminade win a Division 1 championship, but whatever happens, when their final game as teammates takes place and they break away on different paths in life, the lessons learned and the friendship developed will never leave them.

Here’s their exit interview conducted this past week at Chaminade’s outside weight training area:

What lessons did you learn being together so long?

Simpson: “It’s been a long road. What I got to learn is what a brother is really like. I’m an only child. He’s basically my twin. We were born two days apart. We’ve been at the same school since first grade. On the court, it was great to know work ethic and compete with someone I know was going to push me and strive to be the best with me.”

Higgins: “I don’t consider him a friend. I consider him family. It’s been great all these years having someone I know that I can trust with anything and talk about way bigger things than basketball. We have life talks all the time.”

Explain why embracing loyalty and trust in your own ability has worked.

Simpson: “I’m built on loyalty based off my family. They’ve taught me. I’ve always been a loyal kid. Once I bought into something, it’s kind of hard to break me from it. I’ve had to be sat down by my parents on decisions just because of how loyal I am. Being invested into Chaminade and this team I’ve always been loyal. I just wanted to grow. I know what’s best for me and my family.”

Higgins: “This school is all we could ask for. We’ve grown as basketball players since we were freshmen and life-wise, we’ve been taught a lot of things. It’s gotten us ready for our future.”

Who wins a game of one-on-one?

Simpson: “People ask that all the time. I don’t remember the last one-on-one game. We might have to play before we leave.”

Higgins: “I remember in fifth grade, we played and I won.”

Simpson: “No you didn’t. I’ve won a lot of times. I recollect that.”

Heading off to different colleges, will you stay connected?

Simpson: “For sure. This is my brother. I’m still probably going to talk to him every day, ask him a bunch of things, ask him how he’s doing. Nothing is going to change, just the distance.”

Higgins: “Even though we’ll be far from each other, it will be good. We’re still going to work out together and push each other to be the best basketball players.”

What happens if Colorado plays Lehigh?

Simpson: “I’m going to guard him.”

Higgins: “He’ll try.”

This story originally appeared in Los Angeles Times.