Ariel Vangardia hoping Phoenix can learn to win without Matthew Wright
Matthew Wright reduced into a spectator in Phoenix's game against Meralco. Jerome Ascano

PHOENIX coach Ariel Vanguardia admitted the absence of Matthew Wright has immediately hurt the team, as seen in its 81-66 loss to Meralco in the PBA Commissioner’s Cup on Wednesday night.

Wright was present in the game but was reduced into a spectator as the rookie wingman is on loan to Gilas Pilipinas for now as the national team prepares for the Seaba championship.

Without Wright, who averages 9.2 points, 5.2 boards, 4.2 assists, and 1.4 steals in 26.6 minutes this conference, the Fuel Masters were held to their lowest output this conference.

“We have to figure out how to win without Matthew Wright,” Vanguardia said. “Medyo (ramdam yung kawalan), kasi he opens up the lane for Jameel (McKay) eh at tsaka siya rin yung second to RJ in assists sa team.”

“But it’s a sacrifice we have to make for the national team,” he added. “Siguro by Friday, mas sanay kami to play without him.”

[See Meralco shows no sign of rust, grounds Phoenix]

Vanguardia admitted it’s tough to juggle commitment to country and desire to suit up their star gunner for the mother club.

“Ever since we got him sa draft, we know that this will happen,” Vanguardia said. “We just have to live with it. For sure, there’ll be lots of tournaments after this, especially in the third conference, so kailangan masanay kami to play na sometimes wala siya.”

The Fuel Masters are now 1-2 (win-loss) when Wright is out, splitting their first two games of the conference when Wright was sidelined with an ankle injury, and try to improve that record when they take the court again on Friday against Globalport.

Follow the writer on Twitter: @KarloSacamos