Basha did its part to control its own playoff destiny by beating Gilbert, 40-14 on Friday.
The Bears evened their record at 5-5 and secured a spot in the 16-team Division I playoffs. Basha came into the game No. 9 in the power rankings, so the Bears must wait to see if they earn a top-8 spot and first-round home game when the playoff pairings are released Saturday morning.
Basha picked a good time to end a three-game losing streak as the regular season final had a playoff feel of lose and your done. The Bears now get a chance to prove themselves in the playoffs.
"We were a bit sloppy, but we are happy to get into the playoffs and have a chance to play our best," Basha coach Bernie Busken said.
Rajhan Meriwether battled hamstring injuries earlier this season, but was a workhorse by rushing for 144 yards on 23 carries and scoring four touchdowns (5, 5, 3, 6).
"Our offensive line is amazing, and if you can run the ball it compliments everything else," Meriwether added.
The Bears' Austin Williams recovered a fumble after the Tigers completed a pass. Basha then marched 65 yards on six plays all via rushing. Meriwether capped it off with a 5-yard run with 1:51 left in the opening quarter, a sequence which Gilbert coach Tim Rutt lamented after the game as an early turning point against the Tigers.
"We came together as a team after losing those games and take momentum into the playoffs," Meriwether said. "We may get a chance to play one of those good teams we lost to, we want to show we learned from that and will be ready for the playoffs."
Basha scored three touchdowns in a two-minute span surging to a 21-0 lead. Zach Werlinger hooked up with Doc O'Connor twice in 15 seconds for touchdowns. Werlinger hit O'Connor in stride for a 59 yard TD with eight seconds left in the first quarter. Nine seconds into the second quarter Werlinger hit O'Connor for a 42 yard strike. O'Connor had four receptions for 132 yards.
Williams who in the first half had the fumble recovery, an interception and then blocked a 28 yard field goal which Bryant Black scooped up and ran to the Tigers' 5-yard line. That set up another Meirwether touchdown run for a 28-0 lead.
"We have not gotten a lot of breaks this year, but those helped get us going," Busken said.
Gilbert got on the scoreboard on the last play of the first half when Dane Stankiewicz hooked up with Jamian Maes for a 3-yard touchdown pass. The Tigers looked to threaten again when they cut the lead to 28-14 early in the third quarter. Maes caught a 43-yard pass from Stankiewicz before Bailey Moore scored on a 26-yard run.
Basha put the game away with a pair of third-quarter touchdowns. Werlinger hit Ryan Robertson for a 19-yard gain to set up Meriwether's TD run. After a squib kick was recovered by the Bears, Zac Archer set up Meriwether's fourth and final touchdown.
Gilbert finished the season 2-8.
"We are just so beat up with injuries. I'm proud of our guys, we will just regroup and build the program," said Rutt.
Basha 40, Gilbert 18
First Downs: G 13, B 20
Rushing: G 27-132, B 47-236
Passing (comp-att-yards-TD-INT): G 7-28-100-1-2, B 11-20-196-2-1
Fumbles-Lost: G 3-2, B 2-1
Penalties-Yards: G 6-48, B 6-58
Gilbert 0 7 7 0 - 14
Basha 14 14 12 0 - 40
B: Meriwether 5 run (Thompson kick)
B: O' Connor 59 pass from Werlinger (Thompson kick)
B: O'Connor 42 pass from Werlinger (Thompson kick)
B: Meiwether 5 run (Thompson kick)
G: Maes 3 pass from Stankiewcz (Carver kick)
G: Moore 26 run (Carver kick)
B: Meriwether 3 run (kick failed)
B: Meriwether 6 run (kick failed)