WHAT IF… Aljon Mariano gave up 'that shot' to Teng or Abdul
Norman Lee Benjamin Riego on May 13, 2020 04:14 PM
Aljon Mariano could have been a lifetime legend in UST, but his would-be championship-clincher was not meant to be
History lesson: University of Sto. Tomas was oh so close to a championship in the UAAP 76 Men's Basketball Tournament.
With 6.1 seconds remaining in regulation in Game 3 of the Finals and the Growling Tigers all even with De La Salle University at 65, Aljon Mariano decided to write the ending with his very own hands.
After getting the inbound pass from Jeric Teng, Mariano asked for isolation before stepping back for a top-of-the-arc triple over the outstretched arms of 6-foot-6 Norbert Torres.
The ball hit the front of the rim, kissed the glass, and then bounced well off the inside of the ring.
With that, the two teams headed to overtime and there, the Green Archers took care of business once and for all.
There may very well not have been extra time, however, if only UST went through with the play drawn up during the timeout by head coach Pido Jarencio.
Jarencio wanted the ball to go to Cameroonian powerhouse Karim Abdul, who would then take his chances against Arnold Van Opstal.
There was much wisdom in that decision as Abdul wound up with a game-high 26 points.
If not Abdul, the Growling Tigers could have gone to top gun Teng, who had 24 points to his name at the final buzzer.
More than that, the graduating guard was motivated as ever as he was playing the last game of his collegiate career and facing off against younger brother Jeron for all the glory.
Complicating matters further, Mariano had actually muffed on all eight of his attempts prior to "that shot."
Indeed, UST was oh so close to a championship - and that was where they would stand at the end of it all.
Of course, the controversial forward was only correct with his answer when asked about "that shot" post-game. "Kung na-shoot yun, iba (ang) storya," he told reporters then.
Indeed, if he would have made it, Mariano would be a lifetime legend in Espana.
For us, though, the better what if is… What if he gave up "that shot" to Abdul or Teng.
First, if Jarencio would have been followed and it was all up to Abdul, chances are overtime was still coming.
The Cameroonian had logged, as always, heavy minutes by that point and his venture into the lane would have been met by long-limbed Van Opstal and burly Torres, making for a look that is technically tougher than what Mariano had.
On the other hand, if the ball was in the hands of Teng, who was actually asking for it after his inbound, he would have sophomore Green Archer and brother Jeron in front of him.
With more than enough time to make quite a few moves to get some space, Jeric would find himself in his sweet spot of the midrange before pulling up for a jumper.
Swish. Game-winner. 67-65 for the Growling Tigers who get crowned for the 19th time.
Teng leaves the black and gold on the highest of highs and, at the same time, boosts his draft stock all the way up.
Meaning, he would probably get called way earlier than Round 2 in the 2013 PBA Draft.
Mariano doesn't get to be the hero, but he doesn't get to take the heat as well.
In fact, experts would laud his veteran smarts at making the right play and who knows, that may very well be more than enough for him to rise from the 15th overall pick in the 2015 PBA Draft.
Jarencio adds another feather to his cap, winning two championships in eight seasons for his alma mater.
On the flipside, La Salle misses out on its first title in the new decade.
The same goes for the younger Teng who would have to live with the fact that kuya got another one over him.
But come next year, a more determined Jeron comes out and leads revenge-seeking La Salle.
And maybe, just maybe, he wouldn't even need to wait for Aldin Ayo and Ben Mbala for a championship of his own.
Follow this writer on Twitter, @riegogogo.