Are you not entertained?
That’s what Russell Crowe’s character screamed to the crowed with his arms wide after surviving one of his battles in the movie “Gladiator.”
This weekend, basketball fans across the state were introduced to Grace Cave during the state tournament in Lincoln. Like Crowe, the Weeping Water senior — and Nebraska-Omaha commit — fought until the end and was the one standing tall when the buzzer sounded at the end of the Class D-1 state championship game to give her team its first state championship in school history.
Everyone can see that Cave, a 5-foot-9 guard, can ball. But where did she learn to play? Where did the stop-and-pop jumpers and one-handed cross-court passes to the corners come from? Who’s the person inside the player who dribbled coast-to-coast past the Pleasanton defense to drain a layup with five seconds left to seal a 40-39 win over the Class D-1 favorite?
For starters, when Cave was in kindergarten, she remembers her coach, Joel Haveman, and her cousin, Jake, playing in the Nebraska State Basketball Tournament.
“Just growing up, I remember going to school early to eat breakfast and then I’d go to the gym because those guys had shoot-around,” Cave said. “They were kind of like my idols growing up and I wanted to be exactly like them.”
Lift and sleep. That’s what Cave said when asked what she likes to do off the court. The weight room is an important part of how she plays.
“Mostly arms because I got that skinny-calf game,” Cave said with a laugh. “When I get to college I’m not going to be the tallest, but I can be strong if I push myself.”
Just as fast as she drove down the court for the game-winning layup on Saturday, she answered sushi when asked what her favorite food is. Any kind of music is game. Country, rap, hip hop, alternative — you name it, she’ll listen to it.
Basketball fans may have noticed the art Cave wears on her body, too. The tattoos are special to her, a way of always having her family and faith with her.
The ink on Cave’s forearm says “God is greater than the highs and lows.” She has another on the inside of her left bicep with the birthdays for her sisters — that’d be Ella, a freshman on the team, and Layla, a student manager — and her mom. Another, on her right side, is the Bible passage Philippians 4:13 — “I can do everything through Christ, who strengthens me.”
“It’s mostly me thanking Him for everything,” the gold-medal-wearing Cave said outside of Pinnacle Bank Arena on Saturday morning, “because I would not have gotten this far without Him. I’m not one to preach and be like, ‘God is this and that,’ I just like to keep it to myself.”
In the past, Cave may have felt the weight of carrying her team. Being the focus of a defense night in and night out can be frustrating at times.
Not this season, though. And especially not against Pleasanton. She had teammates that came up big when it mattered. Girls like seniors Reagan Aronson, Jamison Twomey, Reba Wilson and juniors Karley Ridge and Brooklyn Rathe.
“Karley had a huge fourth quarter. Reba played her booty off, and so did Brooklyn, Reagan and Jami,” Cave said. “Everybody contributed and I thought we played super well as a team this morning.”
Cave was trying to kill clock late in the second quarter, but Pleasanton’s defense started creeping up quickly in hopes of getting the ball out of her hands. Let someone else take the last shot, right? So Cave came off a screen from Ridge and zipped a pass to the corner into the hands of Twomey, who knocked down the 3.
“Karley can jump out of the gym, it’s crazy. Reba is super physical, one of the strongest girls I’ve ever played with. Reagan and Jami always know where to be at the right time. There’s no one else I’d want to play with,” Cave said.
Pleasanton and Weeping Water have a bit of history on the basketball court, too. The Bulldogs sent the Lady Indians packing in the first round of state two years ago, when Cave was a sophomore.
“Usually I like to think of myself mentally as the underdog, because before this year we didn’t win a game at state, never,” Cave said. “Now we’re state champs and that’s crazy. It wasn’t revenge or anything, it was more, ‘We haven’t been here, they have,’ but we came and rocked the show.”
After the final buzzer sounded and seconds before being mobbed at midcourt by her teammates, Cave turned to her hometown crowd with outstretched arms, almost to ask, ‘Are you not entertained?”
Pinnacle Bank Arena was entertained.
Are you not entertained?
Grace Cave (@_grace_cave_) and Weeping Water (@weepingwatergbb) win their first state championship. #nebpreps @THEnebpreps pic.twitter.com/8ISNU3l3UC
— Steve Marik (@Steve_Marik) March 6, 2021