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The professional basketball cat Sono has been a force to be reckoned with lately. The team was perceived as an underdog at the start of the season, but their recent record shows otherwise.

On March 3, Sono won their fourth straight game with a 71-66 victory over the Hyundai Mobis in Ulsan. Their season record is now 8-8. With their winning percentage back to 5%, they’ve moved up to 5th place in the standings.

What makes Sono’s turnaround so remarkable is the quality of opponents they’ve faced during their winning streak. Aside from the sluggish ninth-place Seoul Samsung (3-14), fourth-place Seoul SK (9-7), fifth-place Anyang Jeong Kwan-jang (9-9), and seventh-place Hyundai Mobis (8-9) are all mid-table to top-tier teams.

The key to Sono’s turnaround has been the on-court adjustment of Chinanu Onuaku, 27, the foreign player who replaced Jarrod Jones. The KBL veteran had a rough start to Sono basketball, losing three straight games, but quickly adjusted and rebounded.

Onuaku averaged 17.4 points (9th) and 11.9 rebounds (4th) per game last season. His inside-outside game was on full display, as he looked to score under the basket, but when the defense was focused on him, he was able to get the ball to his teammates for outside shots.

But Onuaku’s real strength is on defense, not offense. As a defensive big man, he put other teams on alert by locking down foreign players he encountered. The records of his opponents during Sono’s four-game winning streak are a testament to that.

Onuaku held Chungkwan’s vaunted Daryl Monroe (11.1 ppg) and Omari Spellman (9.3 ppg) to three points apiece, as well as Samsung’s pillar Kofi Coburn to 11 points (season average 22.8 ppg) and Hyundai Mobis’ Gage Prim to 13 points (18.1 ppg). The KBL’s top foreign player, Jamil Warney (SK), held his own with 22 points, close to his average (22.6), but his on-court scoring margin, which accounts for points scored and points given up per minutes played, was -10.

“Onuaku defends me well one-on-one under the basket and has good rebounding and blocked shots,” Lee said.

With the defense stabilized, the team was less reliant on archery baskets and had the strength to make up or keep up with the score. Coach Kim Seung-ki Sono was satisfied, saying, “Just looking at Onuaku, I feel good and secure.”


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