It couldn’t have come at a more opportune time.
La Salle was down by 4 points going into the final two minutes of the ballgame. Ateneo was poised to extend their winning streak against the Green Archers to 7 games. On a fastbreak, Samuel Joseph Marata received a long pass and in the blink of an eye, released the ball from beyond the rainbow country. All the green and white gallery could do is watch… with a mixed feeling of fear and hope, as the ball drills into the basket! Suddenly, the Lasalle gallery breaks into a wild roar.
But it did not stop there, as 30 seconds after the first one, Marata, again converts a triple that change the course of the game forever.
“I don’t know. Tinira ko na lang. I felt good about it. Siguro parang na-feel ko lang talaga na I can make this shot.” Judging from the play, it did seem the former UPIS standout’s confidence was zooming high at that instant. That spectacular shot was made with three blue shirts already down the DLSU court, including Eric Salamat who was all over him. More importantly, there was no green shirt to take the rebound in case he missed. Mindful of this, Marata still took his chance, and boy, aren’t we glad he took it.
Where does this guy get the confidence? Prior to that back to back triple, he was 2 of 2 from the area in that game. He is no stranger to the three-point area. For a time last season, during his rookie year, most of his points come from that region. No doubt, he can shoot the three’s.
The ability to shoot from long distance could have been genetic. The Psychology Major is a nephew of the recently departed Ric Ric Marata, a noted three-point specialists during his heydays in the PBA, particularly with the RFM franchise. The elder Marata died last April due to internal organ failure.
“I made a promise to my family that I will dedicate this season to him (Ric Ric). Because if it weren’t for him, hindi mapupunta ang family namin sa basketball. Malaking factor din siya for me, because siya yung nagturo sa akin, along with my father. Sila yung tumulong sa akin para marating kung saan ako ngayon,” said the younger Marata.
Wherever Ric Ric maybe, we can be sure that he is proud of what his nephew has become. His hard work training the budding shooter paid off.
The win was important for the Green Archers. It does not only improve their standings to 3-1, but also stopped the 6 game winning streak of their archrivals against them. The last time the Archers won against the Eagles was on September 30, 2007. And Sam knows this.
“After the game, parang naiiyak na ako sa saya. I was fired up lang talaga.” The intensity he displayed was very evident. While the back to back triples of Marata was a turning point of the game, it should also be pointed out that Marata was likewise instrumental in the change of possession from the Eagles to the Archers. As Ateneo’s Nico Salva was down on the floor trying to wrest possession of the leather, Marata entered the fray and held on to the ball. The referee then called a held ball situation, and in which case, the possession arrow applies, which turned out to be in favor of La Salle.
“I just did my job to lift up the spirits of my teammates not to give up,” said Marata.
TJ Manotoc pointed out during the coverage that the game showcased Ateneo’s weakness: their lack of a go-to guy. Nobody was willing to take the cudgels for the defending champions. But not for La Salle. Sam Marata showed he can rise up to the occasion and deliver. He can be La Salle’s go to guy in the crucial stretch, in the mold of Ren Ren Ritualo, JV Casio and Cholo Villanueva, who La Salle supporters definitely miss in the same way the Green Archers terribly miss being in the UAAP Finals.
Yes, Sam Marata couldn’t have come at a much opportune time.