BATANGAS CITY—There’s still some reserve fuel left in Marlou Aquino’s tank.
At 45, he can still run and gun.
Not as fast and prolific as when he was 20 years ago, but still productive enough to contribute to the Bacoor Strikers’ cause in the Maharlika Pilipinas Basketball League Datu Cup.
Challenged by the presence of younger, quicker, bulkier, though shorter centers, the 6-foot-9 Aquino is pushing himself to the limit during practices and giving it all during games.
No wonder, after a plodding start, Aquino is slowly regaining his competitive form.
“Akala nila siguro matanda na ako; talaga namang matanda na ko,” a smiling Aquino said after the Strikers’ 86-68 conquest of the Caloocan Supremos Thursday night at Batangas City Coliseum here.
Inserted into the starting unit by Bacoor coach Buddz Reyes, Aquino showed flashes of brilliance that made him a national team stalwart from 1994 to 1998 and PBA rookie of the year in 1996.
Scoring mostly on short stabs, Aquino wound up with a MPBL career-high 16 points to go with 4 rebounds and 3 blocks in an impressive 31 minute stint to earn co-best player of the game honors with Mikee Reyes, who came up with a triple-double (21 points, 15 assists, 10 rebounds).
“Di ko na matandaan kung kelan ako naglaro ng ganito (kaganda),” said Aquino, adding that he was raring to prove himself against some upstarts who trash-talked him on the floor, shunning his exploits as 4-time MVP of the defunct Philippine Basketball League.
Elated by Aquino’s performance, Reyes said he’s likely to start Aquino again in the Strikers’ next game against the Laguna Heroes at Strikers’ Gymnasium) on August 14.
MPBL commissioner Kenneth Duremdes, Aquino’s teammate in their UAAP days at Adamson and during the current basketball tour featuring retired PBA players, said he wasn’t surprised by the 7-time PBA all-star’s resurgence.
“Iyang (starting five) talaga ang gusto ni Marlou,” Duremdes said.
“OK lang sa kaniya na alisin siya agad ‘pag masama ang laro. Ang ayaw niya sa third o fourth quarter siya ipapasok kasi nanlalamig na siya from the warm-up.”
After his breakout performance for the Strikers, Aquino could get his first-5 wish again.
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