Being able to finish in any sport is so important for an athlete.
Nobody did it better than Rolling Meadows' Jackie Kemph.
On the basketball court, she seemed to always finish with a flare.
Her moves to the basket were of the A+ plus variety, and her soft bank shots or lay-ins seemed to always finish right through the net.
And she finished strong in the classroom, receiving straight A's her final two years after receiving only 3 B's as a freshman and one as a sophomore.
The finishing results?
Kemph is the Daily Herald's Northwest Female Athlete of the Year.
There are very few high school athletes who can say they played a key role in leading their team into a state championship game.
Kemph did it twice -- in the Class 4A state basketball finals.
Her athletic talents also extended onto the tennis court where she played in the state tournament three straight times as a doubles partner with her twin sister Allie.
She also won the prestigious Howard Lester Award, given to a top female and male student-athlete in District 214.
"Jackie is gifted athletically with quickness, excellent fine motor skills and outstanding hand/eye coordination," said Rolling Meadows girls athletic director Jim Voyles. "She loves the competitive stage and has an intense desire to win.
"She has learned to play tennis instinctively. Jackie has combined all of these elements into one package making her an outstanding tennis and basketball player."
Kemph will continue her basketball career at Saint Louis University, where she will be with some familiar companions. Longtime basketball teammate Jenny Vliet, who scored 1,357 points in her four-year career at Meadows, is also a Saint Louis recruit.
Two other basketball teammates of Jackie's will also be at Saint Louis -- her sister Allie, who was a guard, and Katie Shewmon, a forward.
Also, Mustangs manager Nikko Koutas plans to study at Saint Louis along with Erin Fabbri, who scored 1,000 points in a four-year career at St. Viator. Kemph and Fabbri have known each other through basketball for a long time, too.
Although Kemph has not committed to a major, she says she really enjoys math and science and may look into the medical field.
"But I'm really not sure what direction I want to go," she said.
While in high school, she directed one of the top offenses in the state. As a point guard, she led Meadows to four straight Mid-Suburban League championships and two trips to the Class 4A state title game where the Mustangs fell to Marian Catholic on a last-second shot in 2013 and to Whitney Young in 2014.
"I'm going to remember my teams and teammates the most, especially Jenny (Vliet) and Alexis (Glasgow, who will play at Northwestern after scoring 1,554 points) because we played together all four years (at Meadows)."
They jump-started the program as freshmen and sophomores playing for coach Todd Hatfield and then spent the last two seasons under coach Ryan Kirkorsky.
"I've been extremely fortunate to coach Jackie these last two years," Kirkorsky said. "She combines incredible talent with an unwavering work ethic. It didn't matter if it was a drill during the first week of practice or the final minutes of the state championship game -- Jackie always competed at the highest level."
Kemph, who was the 2013 Illinois Gatorade ‘Player of the Year', averaged 21.9 points and 8.5 assists while shooting 58 percent from the floor as a senior. She wound up as Meadows' all-time leading scorer with 2,149 career points.
"Jackie was one of the rare players who can dominate a game in so many ways," Kirkorsky added. "She can control the game with her scoring, passing, or defense. With all of her skills, her most defining characteristic is her competitiveness.
"She balances great confidence on the court with humility off the court. This rare combination pushes her to improve on a daily basis."
Meadows girls tennis coach Jim Gumz watched Jackie and Allie win two sectional championships and a Mid-Suburban League doubles crown along with three state tournament appearances.
"What makes Jackie so special is her internal drive to win," Gumz said. "Although very pleasant off the court, when you get Jackie between the lines she's a relentless competitor with limitless energy to win."
Meadows veteran softball coach Tony Wolanski would have loved to see Kemph play on his team this past spring even though she had not played the sport in high school. Kemph played on the varsity girls soccer team her freshman year then spent the following springs concentrating on AAU basketball.
"We told her she could just be a courtesy runner and run every time for our catcher," Wolanski said. "Jackie is such a good athlete. Obviously, she'd be pretty fast on the bases. You saw that on the basketball court, so you'd think she'd have good speed for the softball diamond."
"She probably has the skills to learn how to put bunts down and I bet she'd be decent swinging the bat. I'm sure she could have played in outfield somewhere. She could have judged a ball and made catches. We joked around with her about it. We were kind of joking but not joking. We said, ‘If you want to come out, you can do this.' "
Kemph's favorite moment in basketball came at the Barrington sectional championship last winter when the Mustangs defeated Fremd 57-53 just two weeks after falling to the Vikings 49-42 in the MSL championship game.
"It was such a hard-fought game," Kemph said. "And we worked so hard for the win."
Now she will work on succeeding at the next level in basketball.
"I'm looking forward to having a whole year to get better and just meeting all the girls," she said. "Hopefully, we can have a lot of success there."
She will go there as the third Meadows athlete to win the Daily Herald's ‘Athlete of the Year' award in four years.
She follows in the footsteps of 2013 graduate Morgan Keller, who is now with Illinois State's women's track and field program, and 2011 graduate Maddie Conlin, now a member of Notre Dame's rowing team.
"It's really a big honor," she said. "I'm very excited about it. You never think of winning an award like this but it's a very nice honor."