The first time John Karhoff and Caleb Steffensmeier crossed paths was before either could really remember.

Karhoff, then 5, played on a co-ed micro soccer team coached by Steffensmeier's father. Caleb was too young to play — his sister, Tifany, was Karhoff's teammate.

“I doubt Caleb can remember that,” Karhoff said.

It wasn't long before Karhoff and Steffensmeier were roaming the same halls at St. Vincent de Paul School in west Omaha, though they didn't really know each other — Karhoff is, after all, a year older.

“You basically just stuck to your own grade back then,” Karhoff said.

Said Steffensmeier, of his earliest memory of Karhoff: “I just remember this tall guy walking down the hallway in grade school.”

They eventually knew who the other was, but didn't have any strong connection, or rivalry, on the playground.

“Our class used to play soccer against them all the time,” Steffensmeier said. “We always won.”

Both went on to Omaha Creighton Prep, eventually becoming teammates when Steffensmeier advanced to the varsity as a sophomore.

“He was a scrawny point guard back then,” Karhoff said, “but we knew he was going to help us.”

They became friends, and often carpooled to practices and offseason workouts. They won a state championship together, though Karhoff had twice torn a knee ligament and couldn't play on the title team as a senior.

Karhoff, a 6-foot-8 center, went to UNO to play basketball. Steffensmeier, a 6-1 point guard, followed the next year. Since Karhoff redshirted while rehabilitating from his knee injury as a freshman, they became classmates.

Now, four seasons and 117 games later, Karhoff and Steffensmeier are set to play together for perhaps the final time as UNO faces Indiana-Purdue-Fort Wayne in Saturday's 1 p.m. regular-season finale at Ralston Arena.

It's Senior Day for them, as well as for starting guard Justin Simmons and valuable reserves Matt Hagerbaumer and Alex Phillips. Hagerbaumer, like Karhoff and Steffensmeier, joined UNO when it competed in Division II. The Mavericks are about to wrap up their third season in the four-year transition to Division I.

“We've got to take advantage of it, maybe our last game here in this arena,” Karhoff said. “We've been through the ups and downs, and it's made you appreciate playing together even more, being able to go through the transition. We're going to be able to look back when we're older and be able to see how much we helped this program grow.”

One big step, and possibly another home game, would come if the Mavs are able to play beyond this weekend, with conversations ongoing with primarily the College Tournament.

“We hope this isn't the swan-song for these guys,” UNO coach Derrin Hansen said.

Karhoff, a four-year starter with a career scoring average of 11.2 points per game, ranks 10th in school history with 1,307 points, 17th with 510 rebounds and 20th with 213 assists.