Reputations can be fickle in sports. There's that old adage of "you're only as good as your last game/play/match."
If that is true, Aljon Mariano is one of the best players in the league after sparking UST to a huge upset against the defending champs. And Kiefer Ravena, for all his brilliance, might be harboring some self-doubt.
In front of a rowdy crowd last Thursday at the Smart Araneta Coliseum, Ateneo fell to the UST Growling Tigers 71-70. Even with 19 points, Kiefer Ravena was not his usual self ruthless that day, and frankly, neither was UST shooting forward Aljon Mariano.
Mariano, who missed last season with an ankle injury, might have started the transition from role player to budding star. The product of the San Beda high school system shocked the UAAP with an astonishing 21 point performance that led to the Tigers first win over Ateneo in five years and twelve tries.
UST is sponsored by a fruit shake company. The logo is on their towels. After the half, down 43-28, The Tigers must have felt like they had been run through a blender. The Eagles' suffocating defense gave UST few options as their offense struggled to find a rhythm.
Coach Pido Jarencio was so livid at his charges' first-half performance that he punched a white board in the dugout at the half. Perhaps that sparked the amazing third quarter resurgence that set the table for UST.
The Tigers did show late-game character that was absent in their heartbreaking season-opening loss to FEU. But their third quarter barrage laid the foundation for the upset.
UST started brightly , with a jumper from Jeric Fortuna and a trey from Clark Bautista against cheap-suit defense from Greg Slaughter.
Ravena's layup off a Juami Tiongson miss made it 45-33 and Nico Salva followed up with a basket of his own to restore a 14 point spread.
Then the Tigers found their groove. A bucket from Fortuna. Another from Mariano. Two free throws from Fortuna. Then Jeric Teng swirled in another basket. At 49-43, the momentum had definitely shifted and the Gold half of Araneta was starting to come alive.
Mariano served up another floater moments later, followed up by a bucket by Abdul against Justin Chua. Then with 1:40 to go Aljon Mariano struck a three-ball that cut the lead to one, 51-50. He wasn't done.
The Ateneo defense sent him to the line twice in the last minute of the third period and he drained all four charities.
Then to add insult to injury for Ateneo, they were done in by friendly fire. As the clock wound down, Ateneo's Frank Golla tapped a loose ball that somehow found its way into his own basket. The nearest Tiger, Jeric Teng, was credited with the two points.
58-54 was how the third quarter ended, with UST outscoring Ateneo 30 to 11. Thirteen of those points came off Mariano.
The fourth quarter was close, but in reality, the game was won for the Tigers. All momentum was on their side. When Teng drilled a three from the corner with four minutes to go to pad the lead to seven, there was an air of inevitability about the result.
But oddly it was two muffed plays by Kiefer Ravena that sealed Ateneo's doom. With around two minutes to go, Ateneo was trailing by four thanks to Juami Tiongson's three-bomb. Ravena took possession of the ball and surprisingly lowered his shoulder and barged straight into a UST defender's chest. Easiest charge call ever for any ref.
On the next possession, Kiefer found an open three from the corner. His attempt was woefully strong, and went straight to the floor beyond the hoop.
Ravena has built his legend by coming up large in the clutch for the Eagles. But not today.
Jeric Teng salted the game away with an intentional free throw miss with 1.8 left to seal the victory. UST now has a 1-1 record after a tough patch of their schedule. Ateneo has the same slate, and is back to the drawing board. All of a sudden, upcoming games against NU and DLSU look tougher than ever.
One thing is for sure, there is a new phenom in the UAAP firmament. Move over, Kiefer, make some room for Aljon Mariano.
Follow Bob Guerrero on Twitter @bhobg333
Editor's note: The blogger's views do not represent Yahoo! Southeast Asia's position on the topic or issue being discussed in this post.