THE sight of just seven players practicing for Barangay Ginebra is motivation enough for Aljon Mariano to step up.
Mariano took it upon himself to bail out Ginebra in the absence of injured players Greg Slaughter, Japeth Aguilar and Sol Mercado, scoring 20 points off the bench in a rousing 110-102 win over San Miguel on Sunday night.
“We are really undermanned. Kapag makita niyo ‘yung practice namin, lalo na ‘yung last week, parang pito lang kami nag-eensayo o walo. Kapag tinitignan mo ‘yung team, kulang na kulang talaga,” said Mariano.
“Pero we came into this game na we really played with our hearts kahit undermanned kami. We played with our hearts,” said Mariano.
The former University of Santo Tomas standout was definitely all heart in Ginebra's fourth win in five games, drawing praise from Ginebra coach Tim Cone.
“Aljon stepped up big time for us, defending, rebounding, running the break, finishing on the fastbreak,” Cone said. “He played really, really well. We see him do that in practice. I’m glad that fans are getting the chance to see it.”
Mariano said he was not looking to score points, insisting he is only out there to do his role, which is to defend the imports.
The points were a bonus.
“Ang trabaho ko lang, pinapabantay ‘yung import, try to contain or stop the import. ‘Yung points na dumarating, extra na lang ‘yun,” said Mariano, who has now scored in double figures in successive games after his 16-point output in a loss to Blackwater on Friday.
“Okay din ‘yung nakukuha ‘yung rhythm ko off the ball. Hindi naman ako nagke-create on the ball. More on movement off the ball. Hindi ko pinipilit tira ko. Nata-timing na hinahanap din ako ng teammates ko kaya nakakakuha ako ng easy shots,” said Mariano.
Mariano said the team was also determined to atone for their loss to Blackwater.
“Nung Friday, gusto namin maipanalo ‘yun nung Friday pero masama ‘yung pagkatalo namin. Coming into this game, we really needed to match up against San Miguel kasi sure na aggressive team sila,” Mariano said.