CALUMET CITY | In many ways, the defense played by Thornton Fractional North's girls basketball team this season has been the Meteors' best offense.
At the core of the pressure defense, named cover zero, is a player who describes herself as one who is all heart, selfless enough to let her teammates do the scoring while she focuses on the parts of the game that don't appear in the box score.
T.F. North coach Tim Zasada said junior point guard Chardae Greenlee is the best defensive player he has coached in his seven years with the Meteors. It's a strong statement considering that half a dozen players who have played for the Meteors during his time with the program have gone on to Division-I programs.
"She has shut down every star that we have played," Zasada said of Greenlee. "She takes pride in that. She wants the assignment. Opponents know it is going to happen, they just don't know how tough that night is going to be."
T.F. North will travel to face T.F. South tonight in a matchup of teams unbeaten in South Suburban Conference play. The Rebels have not defeated their District 215 rival in seven years.
"We have to win this game," Greenlee said with a smile. "I'm real excited about it. We are going to work as a team and get this win."
The Meteors kept their South Suburban record spotless with Tuesday night's win against Oak Forest. In that contest, Greenlee prevented guard Katie Swanson from scoring a basket, something Zasada said had never happened to the Bengals all-time leading 3-point shooter, who has amassed more than 1,000 points in her varsity career.
"Our girls know they can't do what Chardae does," Zasada said. "They love watching her play with that energy, and watching the effect it has on other team's players. Romeoville had a great guard, and you could see at one point that she realized that she was about to be shut down the entire game."
Greenlee said that one of the greatest pleasures she has derived from this season is that, for the first time in her career, she gets to play with her older sister, Sharee. While Sharee has established herself as a perimeter threat, Chardae said her own skills on the court have developed not as an attempt to be different from her sister, but simply to fill a niche on a balanced attack.
"My biggest contribution to the team is my defense," Greenlee said. "I will get that offensive side going, but my role right now is handling the ball and to keep the team's intensity up with defense. I play with all my heart, and I try to feed that off to all the players, just like coach has taught us."