Mariano comes through again for UST

Tigers edge Archers in 2OT thriller

What was expected to be a fierce showdown between the Teng brothers turned into an Aljon Mariano and Karim Abdul show.

The 6-foot-3 Mariano stole the limelight with key baskets in the stretch while the Cameroon native Abdul came through with big stops as University of Santo Tomas outlasted La Salle with an 84-82 double overtime victory in a highly-entertaining Saturday game at the packed MOA Arena.

After failing to see action last season, Mariano continued his amazing comeback by pumping in his team’s last four points, including the game-clinching corner jumper with 7.1 seconds left in the second extension period, while the 6-foot-6 Abdul, who dominated with 16 markers and as many rebounds, preserved the energy-sapping win with two huge blocks to totally foil the Green Archers’ bid.

Tata Bautista, another returning UST player, waxed hot from beyond the arc with six triples and tallied 11 of his game-high 22 points on top of five boards and three assists, enough to help the Growling Tigers gain their third straight win in four starts, good for solo second.

“I think ‘yung attitude na pinasok ko ang pinakamatibay–na hindi bibigay hanggang dulo,” noted UST coach Pido Jarencio. “’Yun ang never say die. Sabi naman ng mga players, ‘Coach, lalaban kami hanggang dulo.’”

And it was Mariano and Abdul who stood tallest.

Trailing 80-82, Mariano snapped UST’s drought with a game-tying inside incursion. Abdul then came through with a huge block on LA Revilla on the other end to give the Tigers a chance to take the lead once again.

Finding enough space in the left corner, the 6-foot-3 Mariano then drained a basket off a timely feed from Jeric Fortuna for an 84-82 UST lead with 7.1 seconds left. Abdul soared high anew to block a potential game-tying shot from Yutien Andrada, leaving La Salle with just sixth-tenths of a second left.

Jed Manguera had trouble inbounding the leather from the baseline then found Revilla cutting on the right flank, but the nifty Archer guard heaved an air-ball as time expired, preserving the big win for UST.

“It’s all by design,” stated Jarencio, referring to their plays in the crunch, virtually centered on Mariano. “May slight advantage kasi siya (against Andrada) and he delivered.”

Revilla, who came up with 19 points, initially appeared to have won the game for La Salle in regulation with his floater off Fortuna. But the game officials reviewed the tape and ruled out the basket, extending the game five minutes more.

With their parents Alvin and Susan watching from the stands, Jeron Teng outplayed his older brother (19-9 in points, 12-3 in rebounds and 4-1 in assists). The two went at it for most of the fourth period and the two overtime periods, but it was Jeric who had the last laugh, thanks to his teammates.

“Iniwas ko muna ‘yung match-up nila,” added Jarencio. “Nagkataon lang na napaaga.Sabi ko kay Jeric ‘Basketball lang ‘to. Pero pagdating sa bahay, magkakampi na kayo. Gawin mo lang ‘yung obligasyon mo sa UST dahil gagawin niya rin ‘yung kanya sa La Salle.’”

Andrada posted 16 points and nine boards while Joshua Webb added 13 and six but those went for naught as the Archers dropped to their third straight loss after a 2-0 start.

The Archers got off to a strong start with an early 17-10 spread but the Tigers, leaning on the hot hands of Bautista, came charging back with a 16-9 run in the third to post their biggest lead at 49-39.

With Bautista starting to sputter offensively, the Archers came alive in the fourth and inched ahead when Revilla’s split gave them a 70-69 lead. After an unproductive UST thrust, Teng was fouled but also split his charities, keeping the door ajar for UST.

Mariano tied it up with a gutsy move against the Archer fortress in the paint with 9.7 ticks remaining, setting the stage for Revilla’s potential game-winner that was waved off.

Another strong move by Mariano in the first OT gave them an 80-78 lead but La Salle center Norbert Torres answered right back with a hook. Tasked to make the winning play, Mariano drove hard anew but turned the ball over, forcing a second OT.

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