ALJON Mariano didn’t fall into the trap of being affected by Calvin Abueva’s antics on his way to a big game on Sunday against Phoenix Pulse.
The Barangay Ginebra forward tallied 20 points and nine rebounds, capping his heroics with two clutch free throws in the endgame as the Gin Kings came away with a 100-97 win over the hottest team in the PBA Philippine Cup.
Aside from the numbers, Mariano had the task of guarding Abueva, who, resorted to his antics on defense in order to distract the former University of Santo Tomas standout.
“We all know him naman na ‘yun ang tactics niya,” said Mariano on Abueva. “May mga extra siya na ginagawa para ma-pump up ‘yung crowd and everything.”
“Sabi lang ni coach, it’s not you versus him. It’s our team versus Phoenix. Just play your game. ‘Wag mo intindihin ‘yung antics na ganun,” Mariano said.
Mariano did just that.
In one play, Mariano sparked loud cheers from the Ginebra crowd - and jeers for Abueva - when he scored off the flamboyant Phoenix forward.
The 26-year-old Mariano also made the two free throws that increased the gap to three points with four seconds left in the game.
“Buti pumasok ‘yung dalawang free throws. Sinabi kasi sa akin ni Sol (Mercado) before ako tumira, you’ve been doing this everyday na pina-practice mo ‘yung shooting,” said Mariano.
Barangay Ginebra coach Tim Cone said the clutch free throws Mariano hit in the endgame remind him of his longtime import during his time at Alaska, Sean Chambers.
“Not our best free throw shooter but he has been improving,” said Cone of Mariano. “Showed up in the clutch. Reminds me of Sean Chambers. Sean couldn’t hit the whole game but if he had to make one at the end of the game, he always made them.”
More than his offensive game, Mariano said he was proud of the way Ginebra played defense, something that the team has been working on the past week after the Gin Kings suffered a lopsided defeat to Alaska.
“This past week, we’ve been building ‘yung defense namin. ‘Yun ang focus namin. Start ako ni coach para bantayan talaga si Calvin. Actually, maganda naman ‘yung pina-practice namin na help defense. Lumabas naman sa outcome ng game,” said Mariano.