Brgy. Ginebra’s Aljon Mariano has played a significant role in the team’s ongoing campaign in the 2020 PBA Philippine Cup restart.
The 28-year old product of University of Santo Tomas showed consistent form in the league bubble in Clark, Pampanga as he averaged 8.71 points, 6.35 rebounds, and 2.18 assists to help the Gin Kings barge into the championship round of the league’s most prestigious conference.
The coaching staff recognizes the value of Mariano who came into the bubble in excellent shape and took charge while the team’s other bigs – namely Japeth Aguilar and Joe Devance – nursed their way back to playing condition after the extended downtime brought about by the COVID-19 pandemic.
“As coaching staff, we acknowledge that we won’t be in this position if not for Aljon. He came in the bubble in great shape. Nung time na Japeth and Joe were not in shape yet, siya ang nag-fill in ng void,” said Gin Kings lead deputy Richard Del Rosario during in an interview on Cignal’s Sports Page program.
“That’s why nakalutang kami in the first few games in the bubble. Gotta give credit to AJ, hindi kami aabot rito kung hindi dahil sa players na gaya niya,” he added.
With Mariano taking the cudgels from the still out-of-shape vets, the crowd darlings blasted off to a 4-0 start and cruised all the way to the top spot in the elimination round with Aguilar and Devance getting their rhythm back just in time for the playoffs.
In the Finals, the 16th overall pick of the 2015 draft started off with a decent performance by scoring 6 points and hauling down 8 boards in 22 minutes of action as Brgy. Ginebra took the series opener over TNT, 100-94.
It was a different story, however, in Game 2 as the undersized forward took over from a struggling Aguilar and scattered 20 points in 30 minutes as the Gin Kings repeated over the Tropang Giga to move to within two games of ending their 13-year title drought in the All-Filipino conference. The stellar showing earned him a best player of the game citation.
Game 3 of the best-of-seven championship series is set on Friday, December 4, 6:00 pm at the Angeles University Foundation Sports Arena and Cultural Center in Angeles City, Pampanga.