LA CAÑADA – Questions as to the prosperity of the Flintridge Prep boys’ water polo team in the first year after the departure of head coach Dan Hare were partly put to rest Thursday afternoon.
That’s because Hare’s hand-picked successor Andrew Phillips, a former assistant coach, continued a Prep League legacy started by his former boss.
The CIF Southern Section Division V No. 2-ranked Rebels clinched a fourth straight Prep League crown via a 14-4 victory over archrival Pasadena Poly in the regular season home finale.
With the win, the Rebels (14-3, 7-0 in league) jumped two games ahead of rival Chadwick (11-7, 5-2) with one game remaining between the squads on Wednesday in Palos Verdes Peninsula, ensuring an outright title.
“It feels amazing to win,” Phillips said. “It feels like a good start to a career and I couldn’t give enough thanks to Dan for creating a culture like this. I walked into this and I can’t take all the credit.
“I have wonderful seniors who know water polo, who help teach it to the younger kids. They earned it and it’s hats off to them.”
The Rebels relied on a ball-hawking defense to shut down Poly (15-7, 2-4).
Flintridge Prep forced 21 turnovers, with nine taking place in a decisive fourth quarter.
The Rebels led, 8-4, after three quarters and stifled Poly in the fourth thanks to eight steals, with a two apiece coming from Hakop Kaplanyan and Kasen Barraclough.
Barraclough, who tallied a team-high five goals, four assists and three steals, put Flintridge Prep ahead, 9-4, on a goal off an assist from Kaplanyan created by a steal from Aidan Schraeder with 5:25 left.
The Rebels then utilized a block from goalie Conrad Oakes, who finished with 11 saves, to start a counter-attack that resulted in a goal by Schraeder that gave the home team a 10-4 advantage with 3:15 remaining.
A five-meter penalty goal from Schraeder with 2:46 left led to an 11-4 advantage, a timeout and wholesale roster changes from Poly.
Eventually the Rebels won the quarter, 6-0.
“We’re pretty happy with this win,” said Kaplanyan, the younger cousin of two former Kaplanyan boys’ water polo players at Hoover High by the same name. “I think we thought we were going to be pretty good this year even with the coaching change. We had to go out and win.”
Kaplanyan finished with three goals and six steals and helped propel the Rebels’ second-quarter rally.
Poly took advantage of a slow start to take a 2-0 lead after one quarter with goals from Joe Masters and Sean Liu.
The score could have been worse if not for a five-meter penalty-shot block from Oakes of Masters at the three-minute mark in the first.
Flintridge Prep responded with five turnovers in the second quarter and five goals, with Barraclough scoring two goals and assisting another two as the Rebels led, 5-3, at the half.
Flintridge Prep won the third quarter, 3-1, behind two goals from Kaplanyan, to go up, 8-4. Maybe the defensive highlight was two saves on the same possession from Oakes right before time expired.
Ian Tien added three goals for the Rebels.
“I think, honestly, it was nerves at first,” Barraclough said in regards to his team’s early struggles. “It’s our senior night and we went out and … I don’t know. It was honestly nerves at the beginning, taking shots we shouldn’t have, but in the second half we brought it together.”