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Solid nucleus helps Sendai to league-best 6-0 mark

by Ed Odeven

With six victories in as many games, including a series sweep over the Niigata Albirex BB last weekend the Sendai 89ers have a well-deserved break this weekend.

They’ll return to the rigors of the 52-game season on Oct. 31 against the Hamamatsu Higashimikawa Phoenix (4-0), the league’s only other unbeaten team. That series should provide some hints about the balance of power in the bj-league’s Eastern Conference this season.

From what we’ve witnessed thus far, the 89ers have quickly meshed their returning players with their newcomers to form a successful unit.

Power forward Gyno Pomare, who played college ball at the University of San Diego, leads the team in scoring at 18.7 points per game, followed by guard/forward Demetrius Guions’ 17.0.

Forward Michael Peeples, who went to little-known Fairleigh Dickinson University in New Jersey, is contributing 12.0 ppg. Center Chris Holm is next at 11.2, followed by guard Kenichi Takahashi’s 10.3.

Pomare and Holm share the team lead in rebounds (88).

Strong 3-point shooting has been a staple of coach Honoo Hamaguchi’s team, with the 89ers making 40 of 102 shots from beyond the arc.

Like many teams, they have plenty of room for improvement at the free-throw line. A 67.7 percent success rate (86-for-127) is never good enough.

Still, the 89ers have 46 more regular-season games and a chance to build on the success they’ve experienced to start the 2009-10 season and over the past few years.

Kansai promotion: The Kyoto Hannaryz, a first-year expansion club, are teaming up with the J. League’s Kyoto Sanga for a discount ticket project. Hannaryz fans who save ticket stubs from this weekend’s games against the Oita HeatDevils can receive an admission discount for Sanga’s Nov. 28 match against the Urawa Reds.

Looking ahead: This weekend’s slate features the Shiga Lakestars (4-2) vs. the Osaka Evessa (3-1), as well as the Niigata Albirex BB (1-3) vs. Hamamatsu, Saitama Broncos (0-4) vs. Tokyo Apache (2-4), Kyoto (2-2) vs. Oita (1-1) and Rizing Fukuoka (1-3) vs. Toyama Grouses (1-1).

The Takamatsu Five Arrows (1-5) and the Ryukyu Golden Kings (2-2) also have no games this week.

Around the league: Apache big man Julius Ashby received a one-game suspension last weekend for punching Toyama forward Kirby Lemons in the closing seconds of the third quarter of Saturday’s game.

Ashby was also fined for the incident, but the league does not reveal the amount of player fines, according to league spokesman Akihiro Ejima.

From one observer’s vantage point, the Ashby-Lemons incident occurred during a fast break attempt, as Lemons was attacking the basket. When the ball slipped from his control, Ashby scrambled after it. Both players tumbled to the court and Ashby landed on top of Lemons.

Then Ashby grabbed the ball and dished it off to a Tokyo player. After that, Lemons appeared to elbow Ashby in the chest, but video footage showing any punches from either player was unavailable.

Both players probably became a bit too aggressive during the exchange.