PASAY CITY – The Philippine Health Insurance Corporation (PhilHealth) won its fourth straight championship in the Open Division while its Seniors squad secured a second place finish in the recently concluded Government Corporations Athletic Association (GCAA) Basketball Tournament here at the Government Service Insurance System Gymnasium.
Open Division Most Valuable Player (MVP) Jonathan Aldave scored a game-high 28 points while Alex Noriega chipped in 18 points to lead the state social health insurer’s charge in a 91-85 win over the Social Security System (SSS) en route to a remarkable “four-peat”.
Before the game, Aldave was asked about the preparations made by the perennial champs. “We practiced every other day for a week leading to this [championship game]. Pinaghandaan namin ito lalo na iyong stamina namin kasi iyon ang kulang sa amin.” He also mentioned that the group cautioned against overconfidence despite being undefeated during the elimination round. “We need to go all out from the get-go, hindi namin kailangang maging sobrang kumpiyansa until the final buzzer.”
“Kailangang ibigay namin ang aming best para manalo sa game na ito. We need cohesive teamwork both on the offensive and defensive fronts. Bigay-todo na lahat, kailangan naming kunin iyong fourth championship,” commented the two-time Open Division MVP Mark Eduard Pedroso. PhilHealth drew additional firepower from veteran players Ian Mazo and Esmeraldo Pacheco with 12 and 8 points, respectively.
The game was close after the first canto with PhilHealth trailing SSS by three points, 17-20. In the second quarter, PhilHealth tightened its defense anchored by the bruising duo of Noriega and Randy Pagon. Aldave and Kenneth Emata collaborated for three triples in the period to turn the tides and Pacheco scrapped for seven points to give PhilHealth a nine-point lead, 43-34, into the break.
PhilHealth outscored SSS in the third salvo, 22-18, with Aldave, Noriega, and Pagon combining for 15 points. SSS tried mightily to salvage the game in the final quarter but failed due to the 12-point explosion of Aldave which was aided by the brilliant play of Mazo who tallied seven points down the stretch.
“Ito ay para sa PhilHealth at bawat empleyado nito. Kahit saan kami pumunta ay dala namin ang pangalan ng PhilHealth. Sana huwag kayong magsawang sumuporta sa amin dahil kami ay naglalaro at lumalaban para sa inyong lahat.” said Jervy Glorioso, PhilHealth head coach for the Open Division. He admitted that his players sacrificed a lot to sweep the elimination phase and win this year’s crown. “We did thrice-a-week practices for the duration of the tournament to improve our conditioning both physically and mentally. Despite our grueling schedule dahil na rin sa ginagampanan naming trabaho bilang public servants, nagawa pa rin namin manalo tungo sa championship.”
“Ang sarap ng feeling dahil pang-apat na championship na namin ito sa GCAA [Open Division]. Sana patuloy lang iyong suporta ng Management sa amin; nananalo kami dahil sa suporta nila at ng lahat ng kasama namin sa PhilHealth,” reflected Emata. “I hope na sana suportahan din kami ng PhilHealth community sa lahat ng ligang aming sinasalihan.”
In the other championship game, the PhilHealth Seniors team succumbed to the Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corporation (PAGCOR), 61-78. Boyet Alfeche paced PhilHealth’s gallant stand and collected 18 points. He received ample support from teammates Eric Roy, Jhoel Hierro, and Michael Lacson.
The game was tightly contested until the early part of the fourth quarter when PhilHealth held a 54-50 advantage. However, the game went south for the social health insurers when Alfeche was called for an offensive foul nullifying the basket that could have pushed the lead to six. It was then that PAGCOR took control of the game and held PhilHealth at bay.
Dr. Roy B. Ferrer, Acting President and Chief Executive Officer of PhilHealth, praised the PhilHealth basketball teams and said, “Thank you for being our constant source of pride these past few years. Congratulations on winning yet another overall championship in the GCAA Basketball Tournament. Know that we follow your success with great admiration and it serves as a reminder that we are capable of achieving great things through hard work, unity, and perseverance.” (END) (JJ Rico)