With redemption elusive, enigmatic Aljon Mariano leaves UST with a heavy heart
Aljon Mariano gets a hug and an ovation as he leaves his final game in a UST uniform. Jerome Ascano

ALJON Mariano is leaving University of Santo Tomas with a heavy heart after failing to live up to his promise to help the Tigers earn a return trip to the UAAP Finals in his final year in the league.

“Siguro hindi ko napanindigan (`yung mga sinabi ko) kasi out kami sa Final Four ngayon,” said Mariano when Spin.ph caught up with him on Tuesday shortly after the Tigers closed out their season with a 78-73 loss to University of the East.

Mariano  will be remembered for his costly mistakes in last year’s deciding Game Three of the Finals between UST and La Salle which cost the Tigers the championship.

Following the sad experience, the shooting forward vowed to redeem himself in Season 77.

Unfortunately, he failed to deliver again.

The Tigers began the season with a 3-1 win-loss card, but slipped down the standings at the first round after losing three straight games.

“Madaming nangyari, medyo up and down kami this season kaya ayun," he said.

[See UE Red Warriors tame Tigers to earn playoff shot at place in UAAP Final Four]

Then came UST’s rematch against La Salle in the second round.

With the game close at 63-60 in the final 20 seconds, the Tigers had the chance to trim the deficit or tie the game with the ball in the hands of Mariano.

But again, he succumbed to pressure and lost the handle on the ball, allowing the Archers to score at the other end and clinch the victory that denied the Tigers a berth in the Final Four.

“May times naiisip ko babalikan ko, nasa akin 'yung bola, nasa akin 'yung chance ng team namin para mag-champion, pero wala," he said.

The graduating player said he’s not angry at those who bashed him on different social networking sites.

Instead, Mariano said he tried to enjoy his final playing year with the Espana-based team.

“Hindi ko naman masisisi ('yung mga nagba-bash) kaya tina-try ko na lang i-enjoy 'yung mga nangyayari sa akin. Ngayon last day ko na, in-enjoy ko na lang kasi 'di ko na mababalikan 'to," he said.

Although he failed to achieve what he set out to do this season, Mariano will take with him his beautiful memories with UST, especially during his third season with the team which he considers the highlight of his career.

“Incoming third year ako noon, na-dislocate 'yung right ankle ko ng summer," he recalled. "Pagbalik ko maganda ang pinakita ko sa Season 75. Pumasok kami ng Finals natalo kami sa Ateneo. Pero 'yun ang highlight ng career ko."


Follow the writer on Twitter: @meilinspin