Worcester Wolves are the champions of the Midlands Conference of National Basketball League Division Three after securing the title with an 85-68 success at nearest-challengers Stoke-on-Trent Knights on Saturday.

An electrifying 22-5 first quarter laid the foundation for Wolves’ fourteenth win of the season, against just a single defeat, and puts them in position for a prime seeding in the upcoming post-season playoffs.

Tom Grayling jumped highest to grab the tip-off and proceed to open the scoring. Austin Payne three-pointers from the right side and then the left side of the court preceded Grayling connecting again.

Ian Vivero-Rodriguez profited from a Lucas McGregor assist before the latter player notched his own score, prompting Stoke coach Shawn Jamison to angrily call for a timeout just three minutes into the match.

The pause in play did nothing to disrupt Worcester’s rhythm as Matei Balteanu and Payne blocked successive Knights attacks to confirm the visitors’ control.

Stoke finally found their feet as the second period progressed, checking Wolves’ onslaught and holding the half-time gap to 43-29.

The hosts’ hint of a comeback brought matters to 50-40 by midway through the third quarter, but they had no answer for an effervescent Vivero-Rodriguez who followed up an impressive sixteen-point pre-interval haul with a further ten points in as many minutes after the break.

A 68-51 cushion entering the final period encouraged Worcester to showcase their abilities. Payne engaged in a clever one-two with Balteanu, Wilfrid Santhe picked off a Knights pass to set up the Romanian forward and then produced a solo dribble for his own basket, finalising the victory.

Vivero-Rodriguez’s game high 26 points was supported by 16 from Balteanu and 11 for Payne.

“I’m very proud that we’ve won our division and I’m delighted that the players have something to show for all their hard work,” applauded coach Dean Blake.

“Next week I want us to stay in the right mood, ready for the playoffs, and to put on a show for our fans to say thank you for their commitment to us during this season.”

Wolves round out their regular-season fixtures next Sunday 20 March (5pm) when they welcome Warwickshire Hawks to the University of Worcester Arena.