Marata 3-pointers help Archers slip past Eagles

source: JVP, GMANews.TV
The late Ric-Ric Marata must be smiling, perhaps very proud of the heroics made by his nephew, La Salle's Sam Marata.

The 6-foot-2 Marata, a sophomore guard, fired back-to-back three-pointers to help La Salle escape with a 66-63 win over fierce rival Ateneo in the second game of the 73rd UAAP men’s basketball tournament on Saturday at the packed Araneta Coliseum.

The Green Archers relied on Marata’s outside bombs to improve to a 3-1 record behind the immaculate slate of title favorite Far Eastern University (3-0). His triples highlighted La Salle’s closing 13-1 run to end a six-game losing skid against Ateneo.

The Taft-based squad trailed 62-53 with 3:57 left on a shot clock-beating jumper by the Blue Eagles' Nico Salva as the Green Archers appeared headed for a seventh straight loss against the boys from Katipunan.

But out of nowhere, the young La Salle crew of coach Dindo Pumaren came back strong with Marata coming through in the clutch.

Rookie Jarelan Tampus, the Green Archers’ recruit from the Letran Squires, converted two baskets off transition to cut the Blue Eagles’ lead to three points with about two minutes left.

A Salva split free extended Ateneo's lead to 63-59 then Marata, coming from a fastbreak play, drained his third triple that trimmed the deficit to one (63-62) with 1:58 remaining.

Marata’s last shot from downtown pushed La Salle to a 65-63 lead entering the final one-minute of the tightly-fought contest.

And this one was big. Off the screen, Marata received a pass from the top of the key. He stepped on the three-point arc and when the shot found its mark half of the 16,566 fans that packed the Big Dome cheered in unison for the Men in Green.

Ateneo had several chances to either win it or send the game into overtime but missed several shots then blew another opportunity when an Eric Salamat steal resulted in a scramble for the looseball. Referees called it a jumpball and possession went to La Salle.

Simon Atkins, who was fouled by Bacon Austria, then split his charities to extend La Salle’s lead to three 17.6 ticks to go.

The Eagles had a chance to send the game into overtime with a three-pointer but Justin Chua, the hero of Ateneo's 68-56 win over University of Santo Tomas on Sunday and again delivered big shots in the fourth period, muffed an open triple try.

He managed to grab the looseball after his miss but once again missed a desperation shot from about 30 feet that virtually decided the outcome of the game.

"I don't know what to say, I'm so happy. We were down nine points but the boys showed their heart. It's been two years already (since we haven't won a game)," said Pumaren.

La Salle's last win came on September 30, 2007 when Cholo Villanueva spearheaded the team's 65-60 victory in a do-or-die Final Four game held in front of 23,000 spectators.

The younger Marata made time to reflect on his uncle, who etched his name in Philippine basketball with his trademark three-point shots that earned him a spot in the National team and in several PBA ballclubs in the late-80's and for most of the 1990's.

"Yeah. I think he was guiding those shots," said Marata, whose uncle passed away in April this year at the age of 45.

He and Joshua Webb paced La Salle’s scoring with 12 points. He went perfect, 4-of-4, from beyond the arc.

While Pumaren, a former teammate of Ricric with the RP squad in 1987, credited the former UAAP Juniors MVP he was also thankful of Tampus.

"We owed it to Tampus. It was a gamble that paid off," Pumaren said, who beat Ateneo for the first time since 2007 when he guided University of the East to a 14-game sweep of the elimination round en route to an outright finals berth.

La Salle ended the third period with a 46-42 lead behind the likes of Joel Tolentino and lanky center Yutien Andrada.

But the Eagles entered the final canto hitting eight consecutive shots, primarily led by the lefty Chua.

After Salva's basket, off a last-second pass from Kirk Long, Tampus scored on a layup, then added another twinner and suddenly it was 62-57 with 2:39 to go, setting up a thrilling finish that will perhaps go down as one of the memorable games in the history of this epic rivalry.

Atkins delivered nine points, three rebounds and three assists, Tampus had six points in just six minutes. Yutien Andrada tallied six points and seven boards while Joel Tolentino made five points, four rebounds and five assists.

Chua led the Eagles with 16 points and eight rebounds while point guard Eman Monfort added 11 markers and five rebounds but failed to finish the game after suffering from cramps in the dying seconds

Coach Norman Black also lost Long, who had nine points with a few tough shots off the break, to fouls with two minutes remaining.

"We didn't finish strong," said Black. "And it didn't help that Kirk Long fouled out and Eman Monfort went down with cramps in the end."

"But it was the defense that let us down. Things such as not picking up their man on fastbreak, giving up three-point shots and not following around screens," he said, adding that La Salle played scrappier than them.

The more experienced Eagles crumbled and could not match the end-game heroics of Marata, who went berserk in homestretch. – JVP, GMANews.TV

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