Ariel Vanguardia guards optimism against re-tooled Blackwater; Keala King faces ex-college teammate Eugene Phelps

Already peaking at the right time, Phoenix head coach Ariel Vanguardia is careful enough not to take cellar-dwelling Blackwater lightly when they lock horns in Antipolo on Wednesday.

The first-year coach believes Elite’s tweaked line-up can work against the Fuel Masters despite winning four out of their last five assignments to pump life on their playoff campaign after a 0-3 start.

“We don’t know what to expect from them,” said Vanguardia to FOX Sports. “With new import, new players, hindi sila scouted.”

Blackwater will parade new import Keala King, who replaced injured Eric Dawson, while Nard Pinto and newly-acquired wingman Ronald Pascual are set to bolster the Elite on their last-ditch attempt to salvage a playoff ticket.

The former ABL coach added his wards may have a hard time cracking the Elite whom he expect to play with nothing-to-lose attitude.

“Wala silang pressure kaya mas mahirap kalaban yun,” he said.

Elite’s import King, who is set for a PBA debut, echoed Vanguardia’s view.

“Right now we’re the underdogs, so we don’t have too much pressure, all we gotta do is really play hard,” said King.

The Wednesday’s curtain raiser will also serve as reunion of sorts for King and Phoenix reinforcement Eugene Phelps, who were teammates back then at Long Beach State.

“I played with him my whole life, I actually know how to play him but as soon as I watched him here, I told our coach we’re gonna need to double him,” said King on Phelps. – By Jason Mercene 

Follow this writer on Twitter: @JasonMercenePH