LA CAÑADA FLINTRIDGE — While the Flintridge Prep boys' water polo team got off to a great start in nonleague play this year, the Rebels realized all that really mattered was the Prep League season.
Prep's theme of starting slowly in nonleague carried over to its league opener against visiting Webb Tuesday, but the Rebels' ability to dominate fourth quarters continued, as well, in a 20-13 victory over the Gauls.
"That's a team that has had our number," said Flintridge Prep Coach Dan Hare of Webb, which Prep hadn't defeated in four years. "In the fourth quarter, we needed something and we just found another speed. … I am over the moon on this one, really a great game.
"I will take fourth quarters like that all year long."
Things were tightly contested through the first three quarters, as neither side held more than a two-goal lead through 21 minutes of play. It created expectations for a close finish and tightly contested final seven minutes, but those couldn't have been more off base with Prep (9-5, 1-0 in league) dominating the final quarter by an 8-3 margin with Prep's Ethan Vandeventer scoring five times in that span.
"We have a very, very just terrible tendency of starting out slow and working our way up," said Prep's Carlo Sivilotti, who expanded on why Prep has been so tough late in games this year. "It's probably a mixture of conditioning that we can just keep on countering, that's when we just kick it into high gear."
Flintridge Prep, which is ranked fifth in CIF Southern Section Division V, had difficulty cracking Webb's soft defensive scheme that dared the Rebels to beat them from the outside, and couldn't seem to corral a Gauls offense that lit up the scoreboard with long-range shots through the first three quarters. Everything changed in the fourth quarter.
Both teams traded goals to open the final stanza with Vandeventer scoring on his team's first possession on a six-on-five opportunity and Spencer Hosch scoring 55 seconds into the final quarter to keep Webb (0-2 in league) within two, 13-11.
Vandeventer sparked and assisted on another Rebels goal when he forced a steal at mid-pool, drew an ejection and fed Jamie Walker for a two-on-none, man-advantage goal and 14-11 Prep lead.
The Rebels increased their lead to 16-11 with 4:05 to go on goals from brothers Diego and Bryce Delgado. Vandeventer increased Prep's advantage to seven, as he scored three times in the final 3:21.
Vandeventer may have been the best example of Prep's slow-start, strong-finish play Tuesday. All of his game-high seven goals came in the second half after he hadn't scored in the first half.
"I was just getting looks that were open," said Vandeventer, who also finished with two assists. "I attribute that to my teammates. They were feeding me the ball. I didn't even shoot the ball in the first half, but I felt open in the second and things fell into place from there."
The Rebels took their first lead, 4-3, on consecutive goals from Walker (two goals) and Diego Delgado (three goals, two assists). Hosch, who finished with a team-high five goals, tied the score when he nailed a deep shot with three seconds left before the second quarter. The Gauls took a one-goal advantage, 7-6, on another Hosch score 19 seconds before halftime.
Flintridge Prep scored three goals in a matter of one minute 16 seconds, thanks to Diego Delgado, Vandeventer, Sean King (two goals) and two six-on-five opportunities, to take an 10-8 lead with 3:42 left in the third.
Webb knotted it back at 10 on goals from Wilson Parnell and Hosch, only to give up consecutive goals to Vandeventer and Sivilotti, who carried the Rebels through the first three quarters with all four of his goals and both of his assists coming in that span, to end the third.
"We've never beat them before on varsity and it's been a big deal to the whole team," Sivilotti said. "I think it's a big win we pulled out today, even though it didn't go quite the way we'd hoped for. It feels good, we're doing things that haven't been done in a long time. We are looking forward to Milken and Poly this week. Those should be good games."
Prep will face Milken Community Thursday and travel to No. 3-ranked Pasadena Poly in Division V Saturday at 1 p.m.