Class 7A blog: No. 6 Harrison girls get attention with 12-game win streak

Harrison’s girls basketball team doesn’t have a major Division I prospect, a post player or even a true forward.

What the undersized and unheralded Hoyas have is senior leadership, defense and some of the best 3-point shooters in the state.

Riding a 12-game winning streak, Harrison is now 18-3 and ranked No. 6 in Class 7A. This is a team that went 8-14 last season.

“I’m just glad they’re getting the attention they deserve,’’ Harrison coach Terry Kemp said. “We sit in anonymity. We don’t get a lot of attention on the AAU circuit. That’s what I enjoy, watching them finally get noticed on the state level.’’

It’s there’s a word that describes Harrison’s girls, it’s deceiving. That starts with last season’s losing record.

“We played four different state champions, a state runner-up, two other final-four teams,’’ Kemp said. “It was one of the toughest schedules I’ve ever seen.’’

Nine seniors and every starter returned this season. Almost all of them are guards. They attempt 20 to 25 shots from 3 per game, making about 38-40%.

“Whoever we put on the floor is going to be able to hurt you from three, and that makes us different,’’ Kemp said. “A lot of teams know that and so they’re trying to run us off the 3-point line, but we also have the speed to get out and go.”

But while the 3-pointers are flashy, Kemp stresses that his team’s identity is its defense.

“We’re not winning on the offensive side,’’ Kemp said. “They take defense personally. ‘It’s not going to be my man.’ They bust their tails on defense.’’

The team’s leader is Anna Gernatt, a 5-9 senior who started as a ninth grader. She’s averaging 16 points and about six rebounds. Gernatt, who is being recruited by Division II and III schools, made 12 3-pointers and scored 38 points in a victory over Walton last week.

“She’s the alpha,’’ Kemp said. “She’s the leader on and off the court. She’s one of the most underrated basketball players in the entire state.’’

Gernatt is versatile and often guards the opposing post player. Emme Johnson, who’s 5-8, also helps defend inside. Johnson and Gernatt are taking on 6-footers.

The point guard is Alisha Foster, who rarely leaves the floor. Emily Acampora and Mia Geveke are outstanding 3-point shooters. Acampora, who will play at Florida Tech, won the GHSA’s 3-point shooting contest as a sophomore. Geveke will play at Oglethorpe University.

Senior guard Bailey Vick, junior Holley Turner and sophomore Alex McElroy also play significantly and get spot starts.

Harrison hasn’t played anyone in the current Class 7A top 10, but the Hoyas have beaten Rome, the No. 5 team in 6A. They’ve avenged one of their losses, to reigning 7A champion Marietta, and played without two starters in another loss, to Buford. In the other defeat, against Forest Park, the Hoyas failed to hold a 16-point lead.

Harrison also is accustomed to winning playoff games. The Hoyas were Class 6A runners-up in 2017 and 2018 and have made the quarterfinals or better five of the past 10 seasons.

“I think we can definitely make a run,” Kemp said. “We tell the girls you have to prove it on the floor. You can be one of the best in the state, but if you don’t prove it, it doesn’t matter. Marietta wasn’t regarded as one of best teams in the state, but they played like it in the end, and that’s how this game works. Do think we can compete? No doubt about that.’’