Turk Telekom Ankara returned to the 7DAYS EuroCup for the first time since December 2018 and hosted one of the teams that reached the quarterfinals last season, Boulogne Metropolitans 92. Things were not looking good for the Turkish powerhouse, as Metropolitans led 57-63 late in the third quarter and seemed to have full control of the game.
Turk Telekom desperately needed a go-to guy and found one in playmaker Alex Perez, who made things happen. Perez fed Doriukhan Engindeniz for a three-pointer and soon found Octavius Ellis for a layup that brought the hosts within 52-53 at the end of the third quarter. Perez, however, was far from done. He connected again with Elgindeniz for another triple and found Ellis for two more easy baskets.
When the dust settled, Turk Telekom led 71-63 after a game-changing 14-0 run in which Perez had 5 assists. Perez ended up leading his team to a 73-65 victory, setting a new club record with 13 assists. Tutku Acik held the previous record with 11 assists for Turk Telekom against CEZ Nymburk on February 2, 2010. Reggie Redding is the only other player to get double digits in assists in a Turk Telekom jersey with 10 against Valencia Basket on November 14, 2018.
Perez passed the ball well in general and in that 14-0 run in particular, but did a lot more than that. He scored 18 points to record a double-double, the first of his short EuroCup career - only eight games until now. He made 6 of 7 two-point shots and 2 of 5 from downtown plus 2 rebounds, 4 steals and 3 fouls drawn for a game-high PIR of 31.
"Once again, I just want to thank the fans for coming out. Our coach gave us a great game plan and I think we just played really hard," Perez said after the game. "The fans liked it, they cheered and gave us a lot of energy to keep playing hard. I just hit a couple of shots and started to feel good, really comfortable. I am a really good player when I get comfortable!"
Turk Telekom head coach Burak Goren appreciated the fact that Perez carried the game on his shoulders when the going got tough.
"We played very good defense and pushed the ball on the offensive side. Alex [Perez] played very well," he said. "We are proud of the team and proud of my players."
Perez was born in San Diego, USA, but has Mexican heritage. He went a long way to make his Turkish Airlines EuroLeague debut, playing in Mexico, Israel, Argentina and Latvia before joining Zalgiris Kaunas. However, he only played three games for the Lithuanian giants due to injuries. He had his first EuroCup experience with Bahcesehir Koleji Istanbul last season and averaged 12.7 points and 4.4 assists in seven games before joining another EuroLeague powerhouse, Fenerbahce Beko Istanbul. Perez is now back in the EuroCup ready to push Turk Telekom to new heights.
Turk Telekom has a chance to win its first two opening EuroCup games for the first time since the 2008-09 campaign. It will not be an easy task, though, as it visits Partizan NIS Belgrade next week in a battle of undefeated teams in Group A in the Serbian capital.