Junior guard Lauren Greif is Lincoln's leader extraordinaire

Early in the third quarter of the Lincoln girls game at Benson on Friday, Lauren Greif showed how simple basketball can be.

With Lincoln leading by 20 points and inbounding under its own basket, Benson's defense seemed to relax for just a second. That was all the time Greif needed to recognize an opportunity. The 5-9 junior guard ran from the top of the key to under the basket, took the pass and scored a layup.

Even first-year Cardinal coach Jeff Peeler was impressed.

'That was a great play, and it's the kind of thing she does all the time,' Peeler says. 'She sees things before they happen and then tries to take advantage of them.'

With Greif, the Portland Interscholastic League scoring leader at 20 points per game, and senior forward Hannah Oken-Berg leading the way, the Cardinals seem on a path to an unbeaten regular season Ñand en route to the school's fourth league title in seven years.

Lincoln (6-0 in the PIL) plays host to Jefferson (4-2) on Tuesday and goes to Wilson (5-1) on Friday.

Greif says she and her teammates are focused on being a state title contender.

'We want to run the PIL and then get to the Chiles Center,' Greif says, noting the site of the Class 4A state tourney. 'The tournament is usually dominated by other leagues, but maybe we can do some damage this year.'

As a freshman, Greif was named to the Portland Tribune's All-City team. Last year, she made the All-City team again, and Lincoln tied Jefferson for the PIL title.

'She just refuses to lose,' says Peeler, a Lincoln assistant last year. 'Whatever needs to be done to help the team out, that's what she's going to do. Whether it's in a game or some silly drill, she's competing to the best of her ability.'

'She plays with so much intensity,' says Oken-Berg, who is headed to Carleton (Minn.) College. 'But she plays within the framework of the team. She's a great teammate because she's always looking to do things out on the floor that help the team.

'If you're open and she has the ball, she's going to get you the ball.'

Greif receives dozens of letters per week from college recruiters.

'It's flattering,' she says. 'It's a lot of mail, and most of it is just information on the school, but it's nice to be wanted by so many different places. It hasn't gotten annoying at all.'

Greif says she has yet to even compile of list of colleges she might like to attend.

She's also being recruited in soccer, having helped Lincoln to the 2003 state final, and she's been to the state tournament in golf.

'I haven't gotten any recruiting info for golf, but that would be neat,' she says. 'Recruited in three different sports. That would be unusual.'

Greif has sacrificed part of her game to help the Cardinals overcome inexperience; they graduated nine seniors from last year's team. She rarely shoots 3-pointers, even though they will be a staple of her game in college.

'I've had to take fewer outside shots this season just to provide some experience to our offense,' she says. 'But it'll come back as the season progresses. It'll be there when we need it.'

Peeler says he's fortunate Greif is on the floor to help the rest of the Cardinals grow up quickly.

'She's almost like another assistant coach,' Peeler says. 'That's how well she knows the game.'

Greif says the Cardinals made strides in the recent Nike Interstate Shootout, where they reached the semifinals.

'We didn't have any time to play together in summer because we didn't have our coach, so we had to kind of jump into the season,' she says. 'But I can see us being able to beat some good teams and maybe upset someone in the playoffs.'

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