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Greif, Cal prove good fit

Former Lincoln star does the little things for the rising Bears
by: COURTESY OF UNIVERSITY OF CALIFORNIA BERKELEY, Lauren Greif’s arrival at Cal two years ago has coincided with a rise in the program. The Golden Bears could garner a high seed when the NCAA Tournament field is announced later this month.

California has made an amazing turnaround in women’s basketball, and Lincoln High’s Lauren Greif has been right in the middle of it. The Bears enter the Pac-10 tournament this weekend having gone 47-14 in Greif’s first two years in Berkeley, and the 24 wins this year ties the program’s all-time single-season win mark set in 1983-84. The 5-10 Greif has started all 29 games for the Bears (24-5, 15-3 Pac-10), and she averages 6.3 points and 4.2 rebounds and shoots .378 from the 3-point line. “I feel like we’re on our way and things are only going up,” Greif says. “We’re building championship characteristics, in what we do every day and how we handle ourselves on the court.” Cal hadn’t enjoyed a winning season in 13 years before coach Joanne Boyle’s arrival in 2005-06, a season in which the Bears went 18-12. Now, even before the start of the Pacific-10 Tournament, the Bears look like a high seed for the NCAA Tournament. Cal has made the NCAAs the past two seasons, and lost its opener both times. “We have big goals,” Greif says. “We don’t want that (losing) feeling anymore. “It can be” a Final Four team, she adds. “We have the pieces. If we can execute and play our style of defense … once you get down the road, to the Elite Eight, things happen and they go your way or they don’t because teams are so evenly matched.” The Bears led the Pac-10 in scoring defense (53.6 points) and field-goal defense (.345). “Our defense is up in your face, and we do a good job scouting,” Greif says. “Everyone plays smart, but controlled and physical at the same time. It’s one shot, rebound, outlet and go. We’re at our best when we play defense. If you don’t play defense, you don’t play.” Greif’s role: Spread out the defense with her shooting, and do the little things like rebound, defense and hustle. “I’m looking for my shot, but we have all kinds of threats,” she says. The Bears are led by juniors Ashley Walker, Alexis Gray-Lawson and Devanei Hampton; it was guard Gray-Lawson coming back from ACL surgery that strengthened the team this season. It made the team more balanced with guards and posts, Greif says. Cal had a chance to tie Stanford for the Pac-10 crown — Stanford has won or shared the league title for eight consecutive seasons — but the Bears lost a tough game at Washington, 74-66, in the regular-season finale to finish second. Poor defense and foul trouble led to their demise. “We felt like we gave away the Washington game,” Greif says. “But we still have quite a bit of season to go.” The Cardinal, whom the Bears could face again in the Pac-10 tourney, includes J.J. Hones of Southridge High and Jillian Harmon of Lakeridge. The in-state schools have been losing out on such top players. Greif says she visited Oregon, but chose Cal. “I saw what was going on here,” she says, “and I had to come here.”