Worcester Wolves negotiated a tricky encounter with Solent Kestrels on Saturday in the opening round of the National Basketball League Division Three play-offs.

Solent edged 15-14 ahead entering the second quarter before Wolves were able to engage top gear and eventually ease to a 72-63 success.

A confident start saw Worcester 12-4 in front after five minutes of action. After Kestrels had hit back, a blistering 90-second spell put the hosts back in control.

Ian Vivero-Rodriguez sank consecutive three-pointers and Matei Balteanu bustled in a trio of sky hooks for a 24-15 lead, forcing a shocked Solent to urgently call time out and by half-time the Wolves advantage had become 39-28.

Their visitors notched the first half-dozen points after the interval to keep the contest alive.

Speedy guards Sergio Sanchez and David Lauzzana debuted on the scoresheet, Balteanu continued his assault on the basket and Vivero-Rodriguez produced a powerful drive to maintain a 58-45 cushion by the close of the third period.

Lucas McGregor delighted in making the most of a bungled Kestrels’ inbounded ball and later brought the crowd to their feet with a two-handed swinging breakaway dunk.

A scoreline of 60-52 with six minutes remaining was as close as Solent would come to an upset. McGregor led the scoring with 17 points, followed by 16 from Vivero-Rodriguez and 14 for Balteanu.

“We’re in the playoffs now so I knew that the games might not run as smoothly as some of our recent wins,” said Wolves’ coach Dean Blake. “Everyone got on court today and, most importantly, everyone pulled together to get us through.”

Wolves now move into the quarter-finals where they will face Manchester Swarm on Sunday, April 3, at the University of Worcester Arena (3pm).