Mariano nails game-winner as UST rallies past NU anewBy Mark Giongco
MANILA, Philippines – Aljon Mariano delivered anew to push University of Santo Tomas past National University, 58-57, in overtime Sunday night in the UAAP Season 75 men’s basketball tournament at the Araneta Coliseum.
Mariano scored on a back-to-the-basket move with 4.4 seconds left before Ray Parks missed on his last-second drive as the buzzer sounded.
“Wala na din akong masabi. Alam ko kasing dumikit lang kami may mangyayari,” sighed UST head coach Pido Jarencio, whose team tied FEU in second place at 7-2. “Nung na-shoot ni Fortuna, sabi ko sa kanila di na kayo yan. Diyos na nagbigay niyan.”
“Sa ‘kin binigay ni coach. Nagtiwala siya sa ‘kin. I know I needed to deliver,” said Mariano, who finished with 22 points.
Jeric Fortuna drilled a contested three that forced extra session with both teams tied at 51.
“Yung mga bata, ayaw talaga bumigay,” Jarencio said. It’s all about our sixth man, grabe yung community. Nung natalo kami sa FEU, di ko akalain na may manonood pa ngayon. Dahil humiliating talaga yun.”
The Growling Tigers got a beatdown from the Bulldogs in the first half as they trailed by 17, 14-31, and appeared as if UST was bound for another whipping after it took a humiliating loss to FEU in its previous game.
And as if it needed to prove it’s never-say-die character it built throughout the first round with a handful of comeback wins, UST struck again.
“Maganda din talaga nilaro ng NU but it’s all about heart,” said Jarencio.
The Growling Tigers were able to chip away the Bulldogs lead but still stared at a 32-42 deficit entering the final period.
Back-to-back steals and conversion to start the fourth sparked UST’s surge.
A Mariano drive past Jeoffrey Javillionar pulled UST to within one, 46-47, but Robin Rono hit two free throws after a UST error put NU back on top, 49-46, with 36.4 seconds left in regulation.
Kevin Ferrer’s reverse putback off an airball by Jeric Teng trimmed NU’s before Parks made two free throws for a 51-48 edge with 11.1 ticks remaining in the fourth quarter.
Even in overtime, UST needed a rally. The Tigers trailed by three, 54-57, with two minutes left before Fortuna found a streaking Teng on the break made it, 56-57, that set up Mariano’s clutch basket.
Parks paced NU, which fell to 5-4, with 15 points but had to sweat his every point with Ferrer hounding him the entire game.
Karim Abdul had 10 points and 10 rebounds before fouling out with two minutes left in OT.