PHOENIX coach Ariel Vanguardia was glad to benefit from 'homecourt advantage' the Filoil Flying V Arena on Wednesday when the PBA held a rare playdate at the San Juan venue.
The Fuel Masters came back from 12 points down to frustrate Meralco, 94-90, and snap a two-game losing skid in a venue that’s considered the unofficial home of the NCAA where Vanguardia coached Jose Rizal University for a while.
“This arena brings back a lot of memories, marami na ring naipanalo dito,” the former Heavy Bombers coach said after the win.
“Parang home court namin ito kasi lagi kaming nagpa-practice dito dahil malapit lang sa JRU,” added Vanguardia, who coached JRU from 2006 to 2009. “Lagi kaming nandito, lalo na nung kino-construct pa lang ang gym ng JRU. Dito kami lagi nagpa-practice so maraming memories dito.”
Among the former Bombers standouts he handled who are now part of his Phoenix side are John Wilson and Marvin Hayes, two stars of the 2008 team he steered to the finals where they lost to San Beda.
Fuel Masters big man Prince Caperal also played for Arellano for five years.
“Sabi ko kila John, Hayes, kila Prince, homecourt natin ito, baka sakaling pagpalain tayo dito, yung mga multo sa Arena, sa atin pumanig,” Vanguardia said. “Thank God, ganoon nga ang nangyari ngayon.”
Caperal, maligned for his sub-par performance in their last two losses, hauled down eight boards and scored five points in 20 minutes. Wilson registered seven points, five boards, one steal, and one block in 19 minutes, while Hayes added four points and two boards in seven minutes.
Jonathan Grey, a former standout at Benilde, also felt the homecourt edge as he tallied a game-high 24 points on top of four boards and two assists in just 23 minutes off the bench for Meralco, but in a losing effort.