PASADENA — As of late, the Flintridge Prep-Pasadena Poly boys' water polo rivalry has been dominated by the Panthers. Poly looked to extend that dominance when the two squads squared off Wednesday.
The Rebels were able to keep the game, which was played through the rain, a little closer this year, but it was still one-sided in Poly's favor, as the Panthers rolled to a 16-3 Prep League victory at home.
Flintridge Prep Coach Dan Hare was happy to at least see his team trim the deficit, after losing two matches to Poly on scores of 24-5 and 20-4 last year.
"Anything that brings [the score] closer to us is a moral victory," Hare said. "We know how talented they are. It doesn't help they are our league rival, but we respect them."
Poly (12-1, 3-0 in league) commands respect after advancing to the CIF Southern Section Division V finals last year and currently sitting at No. 2 in CIF Southern Section Division V polls. Panthers Coach Ryan Katsuyama knows that puts a big target on his team, particularly against its league rival.
"We knew we had to come in focused and our No. 1 priority was our defense," Katsuyama said.
The Panthers executed and forced 17 Rebels' turnovers and racked up 12 steals in the game.
Poly scored its first four goals of the opening quarter off Prep giveaways. Henry Pray had two of Poly's first-quarter goals and added three more in the second, as the Panthers took a 8-0 advantage into halftime.
"It's always fun to play Prep because they're a school rival," Pray said. "I just wanted to come in and get the win."
Pray finished with a game-high eight goals and three assists. He also had three steals in the match.
"A lot of people think Henry is just a scoring machine for us, but he's an all-around threat," Katsuyama said. "His defense combined with his offense gives us a very special player."
The Rebels (9-7, 1-2 in league) got on the board when Alex Blaine scored less than a minute into the third quarter. Prep had a golden scoring opportunity when it earned a five-meter shot with 4:10 to go in the first half. The shot was saved by Poly goalie Colin Woolway.
"Those are fun, I like taking five meters," said Woolway, who had 10 saves in the game. "There's a lot of pressure and everyone is watching, that's how I like it."
Katsuyama said he thought Woolway's block made Prep tentative on offense. Hare agreed with him, saying Woolway definitely has an "intimidation factor" against opponents.
"I think we had some open shots, but in reverence to him, there was some hesitation," Hare said.
Hare's goalie, Brian Khin, kept the game from getting any more out of hand by blocking 10 shots of his own in the game.
"[Khin] has come a long way, assuming the starting role as a junior," Hare said. "He's a smaller yet quick presence in the cage. It's just tough when guys are shooting from two meters on you."
Prep scored its second goal in the third quarter when Ethan Vandeventer buried a shot off a Diego Delgado assist. It wasn't enough to make the match competitive, as Poly had four more goals in the third quarter to take a commanding 12-2 lead into the final quarter.
The Panthers cleared their bench in the fourth quarter, but it didn't slow them down, as they went on to score four more goals — as they did each quarter — and held Prep to one goal, as Delgado found the back of the cage.
"I like to see the games closer, and I hope that in a couple weeks when we get them at home we can get it even closer," Hare said. "For us, that's how we gauge that we are getting better as a team."
Pray added three more goals in the fourth. Chris McWilliams and Brock Hudnut both had two goals in the game for Poly. Hudnut also had two assists, as did the Panthers' Robert Lantry and Chris Ward.