UAAP: Mariano shows his might to power UST past AteneoBy Celest R. Flores
MANILA, Philippines—University of Santo Tomas clawed back and leaned on a pivotal third quarter to escape defending champion Ateneo, 71-70, Thursday in the 75th UAAP men’s basketball tournament at the Smart Araneta Coliseum.
The returning Aljon Mariano proved to be the Blue Eagles’ worst nightmare as he powered his way through 21 points, 13 in that huge third period turnaround where the Growling Tigers flipped the script and took over the lead, and 13 rebounds.
Staring at a 19-point lead and a bothersome problem on transition defense, an unfazed UST unleashed all its offensive options and surged to a stifling 30-11 run.
The Growling Tigers ended a string of defeats to the Blue Eagles dating back to August 4, 2007, which was the first round of season 70.
UST also recovered from a heartbreaking loss to Far Eastern University last Saturday for the squad’s first victory of the season.
“I wanted to prove to that they really need to prepare every time they play us,” said Mariano, who sat out the entirety of last season due to an ankle fracture.
Jeric Teng, who knocked down five crucial points in the payoff period which gave UST a precious 67-60 edge with a little over three minutes left, chipped in 16 points and seven boards.
But with Ateneo threatening to snatch the victory, Karim Abdul stepped up and took it to Greg Slaughter down the low for two crucial points, his 14th of the game, with 10.2 left on the clock.
The Blue Eagles, absorbing their first loss of the season, pulled within a point on a triple by Juami Tiongson with 4.3 seconds left— reeling from squandering a 39-20 edge.
But after Teng intentionally missed the second freebie, Ateneo, also unable to get the rebound, was left with no time for a desperation shot.
Kiefer Ravena topscored for the Blue Eagles, who caused all sorts of problems from UST on the fastbreak, with 18 points while Nico Salva added 17 points.
Seven-foot center Greg Slaughter was held to just nine points and five rebounds.