ALJON Mariano saved University of Santo Tomas from another defeat, converting a basket with 4.4 seconds left in overtime to lift the Growling Tigers to a pulsating 58-57 overtime win over National University on Sunday in the UAAP men’s basketball tournament at the Smart Araneta Coliseum.
Mariano scored on a pirouette move to the basket over Kyle Neypes for the game-winner to help the Tigers forge a tie with Far Eastern University for second with a 7-2 win-loss card.
Bobby Ray Parks couldn’t launch a potential winning shot in time, sending the Tigers into a delirious celebration on the court.
UST was down by 17 points at halftime following one of the most atrocious offensive showings in the league. Despite a grindout comeback, the Tigers still trailed by three points with 11.1 seconds left in regulation.
But the breaks just came UST’s way.
Jeric Fortuna nailed a contested three-pointer two steps behind the arc to knot the game at 51 to extend the game into overtime.
NU was again ahead by three points with two minutes to play in the extra session but UST still came up with the victory thanks to Mariano’s late basket.
UST coach Pido Jarencio could not put into words how his Tigers found a way to win after coming off a lopsided 60-87 loss to Far Eastern University.
“Wala na rin akong masabi,” said Jarencio. “Dumikit lang kami, alam kong may mangyayari.
“Noong na-shoot ni Fortuna ’yun, sabi ko sa mga players ko na galing sa Taas ’yan. Ngayong binigay na sa Taas, ’wag na natin aksayahin. Sabi nga nila, nasa Diyos ang awa, nasa tao ang gawa.”
“Sa akin binigay ni coach ’yung last play, nagtiwala siya sa akin kaya kailangan ko mag-deliver,” said Mariano, who finished with a game-high 22 points following his game-winning jumper in double overtime win against La Salle during the first round.
The Tigers won after scoring just three points in the second quarter, the lowest output in a period after University of the East scored the same number of points against La Salle on July 17, 2005. NU was ahead, 31-14, after the second.
With Parks neutralized by the UST defense led by Kevin Ferrer, the Tigers slowly crawled their way back in the fourth. Parks could only convert on free throws, two of which put NU ahead, 51-48, with 11.1 seconds left. Then came Fortuna’s tying basket.
With Emmanuel Mbe hurting with a sore back, the Bulldogs relied on Joshua Alolino and second stringers Neypes and Troy Rosario to give them a 57-54 lead but it was still not enough to carve out an NU win.
The Bulldogs dropped to fifth place with a 5-4 win-loss card.
UST (58) – Mariano 22, Abdul 10, Teng 8, Fortuna 8, Bautista 8, Ferrer 2, Vigil 0, Pe 0, Lo 0, Afuang 0.
NU (57) – Parks 15, Mbe 10, De Guzman 8, Rosario 6, Labing-isa 5, Javillonar 4, Betayene 3, Rono 2, Neypes 2, Alolino 2, Villamor 0, Singh 0.
Quarterscores: 11-16; 14-31; 32-42; 51-51; 58-57.