UNIVERSITY of Santo Tomas forward Aljon Mariano said he was so focused on stopping De La Salle big man Jason Perkins that his offense suffered in Game One of the UAAP men's basketball finals.
Mariano scored just two points on a miserable 1-of-8 clip from the field and, worse, almost turned into a goat in the endgame when he failed to handle Kevin Ferrer’s inbound pass.
Fortunately for the well-built forward, teammate Karim Abdul saved the day for the Tigers by blocking LA Revilla’s last-gasp attempt from close range to preserve a 73-72 victory.
Mariano said he couldn’t get his timing on offense as he put his focus on trying to slow down the rookie Perkins, who wound up with 11 points but failed to score against Mariano in the first half.
“Siguro wala talaga ako sa offense kasi coming into the game, ang iniisip ko lang, 'Stop si Perkins.' ‘Yun lang ang focus ko,” Mariano said.
“Sa offense, wala ako sa timing kaya medyo masama laro ko,” said Mariano.
On the turnover that nearly cost the Tigers the game, Mariano said: "Medyo malakas ang pasa ni Kevin, hindi ko nasalo. Buti naka-stop kami."
Still, Mariano believed he atoned for his offensive struggles by doing good job defending the bulky Perkins, who earned a place in this season's Mythical Five selection.
“Tingin ko naman medyo na-stop ko naman siya. Nung napalitan na ako, 'dun siya nakakuha ng kumpiyansa. Pero nung una, wala siyang nagawa, wala rin akong nagawa kaya okay lang,” said Mariano.
In the end, he was just relieved not to have ended up as the goat.
“Nung una, kinabahan din ako dahil last year, naka-shoot din si LA pero hindi counted. Si LA na naman. Buti na lang nahabol ni Karim,” said Mariano.
Mariano later bared that he is playing hurt, having to endure bone spurs in his ankle due to the heavy pounding he has been getting this season.
“Actually, meron talaga akong injury buong season pero kaya ko naman ilaro,” said Mariano, who vowed to play better in Game Two on Saturday.
“Isang panalo na lang,” he added.