Phoenix head coach Ariel Vanguardia hopes his wards could recover in time to salvage a quarterfinal seat after failing to secure it outright in their last two games in the eliminations.
After soaring in the last half of the PBA Governors Cup elimination round, Phoenix was sent crashing back to earth with crucial losses to Alaska (103-87) and Barangay Ginebra (96-87), leaving the Fuel Masters’ playoff hopes hanging in the balance.
As it is, the Fuel Masters might have to go through the eye of a needle now in a knockout playoff match against either against Alaska or Rain or Shine, depending on the final seeding after the games on Sunday.
“Right now, we failed to make it outright so we have to take it sa next game,” Vanguardia told FOX Sports, whose team fell short in its second half rally to bow to Ginebra on Wednesday in Antipolo.
“Lahat nakalaban na namin, may idea na kami kung paano maglaro lahat.”
Vanguardia blamed the lack of maturity of his young Phoenix squad, which hurt the team’s cause.
“Mahirap maka-match up kung very young pa yung team mo. Dun kami nadadale. Di pa kami sanay to play against adversity,” pointed out Vanguardia, who just last March steered the KL Dragons to the 2016 Asean Basketball League championship.
Nonetheless, the first-year coach chose to look on the bright side of their campaign as they gear for a do-or-die match on Wednesday at the Smart Araneta Coliseum.
“Laban lang, I’m trying to concentrate on the positives even though we had chances in our last two games,” he said.
And if ever they survived their knockout game, Vanguardia believes that their recent tormentor Gin Kings will be a dangerous team in the playoffs.
“Kahit sino, pero I think Ginebra is very fluid.” – Jason Mercene
Follow this writer on Twitter: @JasonMercenePH