MANILA, Philippines – With the championship on the line, the ball went into the hands of University of Santo Tomas forward Aljon Mariano.
Six seconds left, Mariano took the ball at the top of the key off the inbound pass by Jeric Teng.
The clock ticked, Mariano, heavily criticized for his poor performance in this year’s Finals, had the opportunity to silence his naysayers with the game winning shot.
As Mariano was about to put the move on La Salle big man, Norbert Torres, Teng, probably the one everyone from the Growling Tigers wanted to shoot the last shot, had asked for the ball back from the right wing.
Mariano, determined to go for the win, refused before creating separation from his defender for a missed jumper as the game went into overtime where the Archers eventually won, 71-69.
“I decide on the things that I do. The shot almost went in. If it did, then it would have been a different story,” said Mariano in Filipino as he was being blamed in social media for his team’s loss. “My shot was okay,” he added.
“The play was really for Karim (Abdul). The last six seconds was really for Karim. No matter what happened, win or lose, it was his ball. What happened was that Karim was denied so Aljon had to move out but what Aljon should have done was he should have attacked the basket,” said UST assistant coach Estong Ballesteros, who filled in for head coach Pido Jarencio during the postgame interview moments after the Growling Tigers let the game and history slip by their fingertips Saturday night.
Mariano missed all of his eight shots from the field and committed a turnover with under 30 seconds in extra session that eventually led to the game-winning basket by Almond Vosotros.
He did, however, have 10 rebounds and part of his three points was two crucial free throws that tied the game at 65 with 53.8 seconds left.
“It was only a wrong decision, it was a mistake,” said Mariano, considered to have been one of UST’s most reliable scorers since last season.