Hard work was the order of the day declared Worcester Wolves coach Dean Blake after he watched his side grind out a 58-54 success over title-rivals Stoke-on-Trent Knights at the University of Worcester Arena on Saturday.

A back-and-forth battle saw Wolves fall 50-54 behind with six minutes to play before they shut up shop around their own basket and rode a seven-point surge from Lucas McGregor, on his return from injury.

“Lucas got going in that last segment of the match,” said Blake.

“But when it comes down to it really hard work from all the players is what eventually pulled us through.”

Worcester’s latest victory keeps them at the top of the league with a perfect seven wins from seven matches and now pulling away from second-placed Stoke.

The evening opened with an exchange of three-point shooting. Knights rattled in a trio while David Lauzzana replied with a couple to give Wolves a 14-13 first-quarter edge.

An unsportsmanlike foul resulted in two made free throws from Lauzzana to stretch the lead to 20-15 before Stoke closed the gap back to 29-28 by the end of the half.

Ian Vivero-Rodriguez sank successive attempts from distance to again put space between Worcester and their opponents before Knights benefited from a flurry of infractions, and consequent time on the side-lines, for Wolves inside duo Matei Balteanu and Tom Grayling.

A slender 42-40 advantage for the hosts entering the final period was soon overturned as they struggled to penetrate a stout Knights defence.

As Stoke’s confidence began to grow it was abruptly curtailed when Austin Payne rose up as if on stilts for a stunning put-back basket.

Urged on by boisterous home support, McGregor produced consecutive scores to regain the lead for his side and then combined at mid-court with Balteanu to force a turnover before finishing the sequence, and assuring victory, with a crowd-pleasing two-handed dunk.