Vanguardia laments Phoenix big men's performance: 'Ipakita naman na may tigas'
“We cannot survive if no one from our bigs play decent,” says Phoenix coach Ariel Vanguardia. Jerome Ascano

PHOENIX coach Ariel Vanguardia lamented his big men’s sub-par showing that factored heavily in the team’s 117-98 loss to TNT KaTropa in the PBA Philippine Cup on Friday night.

Expected to hold the fort in the absence of recovering Doug Kramer, Prince Caperal and Norbert Torres failed to live to their coach’s expectations as the Texters pounced on the Fuel Masters’ porous interior defense.

“We cannot survive if no one from our bigs play decent,” Vanguardia said. “We got killed by their bigs: Kelly Williams, Troy (Rosario), ‘di maka-match up. Growing pains, pero I challenge them na paulit ulit na ganito baka hindi talaga kayo karapat dapat mag-invest talaga sa kanila.”

The poor performance was magnified as their most reliable frontliner, undersized Willy Wilson, was nursing a bum stomach that forced him to miss the second half, finishing with just three points and four boards in 17 minutes.

Caperal registered nine points, six boards, and one block in 19 minutes, but Vanguardia felt his starting center can do a lot better, as shown by his performances against San Miguel Beer and Mahindra – both resulting in wins.

Torres, for his part, was held scoreless after missing his three shots, and hauled down just three boards, although he collected two steals and one block in 16 minutes off the bench, forcing Vanguardia to turn to tall, yet reed-thin combo forwards Mark Borboran and JC Intal at power forward.

“Obviously, kailangan namin ng big presence, and today, both Prince and Norbert didn’t do their job kaya napipilitan kami gamitin si Borboran at Intal sa four,”  Vanguardia said. “Yun ang challenge sa amin this conference, kailangan yung big mag-step up.”

[See TNT regains form, blows away Phoenix]

Vanguardia even bared their failed plan in the recent offseason to go after veteran big men, namely: JR Quinahan, Jewel Ponferrada, and Bradwyn Guinto in the trade market.

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“We have been open to that idea (trades),” Vanguardia said. “Alam naman namin na Prince and Norbert are not yet there, kaya willing kami mag-invest sana sa kanila, pero wag naman ganito na ganitong klase ng laro na ipakita, ‘di ba?”

“Ipakita naman na may tigas naman,” he added. “Kasi yun yung hashtag namin eh, pero hindi yun ang nakikita. So pag nakikita ng kalaban, ‘atakihin na natin yung bigs nila’, so doon nagmumula lahat: open na yung mga shooter nila at ‘di na maka-rebounds.”

Follow the writer on Twitter: @KarloSacamos