LA CAÑADA —With its offense sluggish at times, the Flintridge Prep boys’ water polo team kicked off Prep League play with a strong defensive effort Tuesday afternoon.

The CIF Southern Section Division V seventh-ranked Rebels forced 21 turnovers, 17 of which were steals, in throttling the visiting Dolphins, 13-4.

“Well, we’re finally even, so that’s nice,” said Rebels Coach Dan Hare, in reference to his team’s now 7-7 overall mark. “We played some Division I, II and III teams for the early part of the season, so our record wasn’t indicative of how well we played.

“I think you’re seeing that strong defense that was playing higher division teams only a couple of weeks [ago] coming through.”

Despite a stout defensive presence throughout Tuesday, the Rebels only led, 7-3, at the six-minute mark in the third quarter after a goal from Chadwick’s Alexander Nanji off a six-on-five opportunity.

For the next three minutes, neither team took control, as the Rebels and Dolphins (2-10, 0-1) committed turnovers on three straight possessions in a quarter in which both teams combined for 16 giveaways.

The Rebels finally broke the stalemate and a seven-minute-and-59-second scoring drought when senior Ethan Vandeventer netted a goal with 4:45 left in the third quarter, which gave the home team an 8-3 advantage.

Vandeventer’s goal kick-started a game-changing 4-0 run for the Rebels, which was fueled by the team’s defense.

Vandeventer scored again at the 3:51 mark off a steal and assist from junior Diego Delgado (three goals, four steals and three assists), which preceded a goal from Sean King that was also created off a steal from John Treinen (four goals) with 1:40 left in the quarter.

The third period’s final goal was turned in by Miles Harber, who came up with a blind-sided steal of J.B. Anderson, who was also guarded by Delgado, and raced to the other side of the pool before nailing a four-meter shot past goalie Ben Chappell for a score that put Flintridge Prep up, 11-3, with 1:11 left in the third.

“Our offense stalled a little bit today, but we still kept pressing on defense,” said Vandeventer, who notched three goals and tied with Delgado and Alex Blaine for the team-high honors of four steals. “Our goal was to be aggressive all year and that’s what we were today.”

Flintridge Prep led, 4-2, after one quarter thanks to two goals from Treinen. The Rebels then outscored the Dolphins, 3-0, in the second quarter in taking a 7-2 lead into the break.

Rebels goalie Alejandro Hirsch Marin also deserves credit on defense, as the junior finished with 11 saves, one less than his counterpart Chappell.

None of Chadwick’s goals were of the natural variety, as the team finished four for eight on six-on-five chances.