TEMPLE CITY — With the decision well in hand by halftime, La Cañada High boys' water polo Coach Devon Borisoff gave the Spartans another game within the game with Temple City to win.

In the driver's seat with a nine-goal lead, the first-year Spartans coach said he didn't want the Rams scoring two goals the rest of the way. La Cañada couldn't meet Borisoff's goal, but still impressed with a 20-5 victory at Temple City Thursday.

"I try to give them little goals like that otherwise we're up by 15 goals and they can lose focus pretty easily,' said Borisoff, whose team improved to 9-6, 2-0 in league. "If I give them a goal where the other team can't score more than one goal then they're a lot more focused on defense."

La Cañada nearly satisfied Borisoff's halftime request, despite playing a man down on four different occasions in the second half. Temple City had trouble scoring all night with La Cañada goalkeeper Jeff Lee recording 10 saves and the Spartans logging six field blocks with Alden Geller's two a game best.

Temple City (1-1 in league) managed to keep within striking distance of La Cañada for about three minutes. Geller netted two goals within about two minutes of play to give the Spartans a 2-0 lead before Temple City's Nolan Chang (three goals) connected on a long-range shot with 5:39 left in the first quarter to bring the deficit to one, 2-1.

A six-on-five opportunity pushed La Cañada's lead to two 33 seconds later when Bryce Hopkins just had his shot deflected and off the post by Rams goalie Adrian Rodriguez. The Spartans' Johnny Louk (two assists, two steals) sprinted over and pushed the loose ball in for the goal.

A mere 23 seconds later, Lee sparked a counter-attack goal when he blocked a shot and fired an outlet pass to Chase Borisoff, who fed a streaking Symeon Stefan for an up-close goal.

The Spartans' lead swelled to 8-2 by the end of the first quarter — thanks to solid passing, as six of those scores came on assists with Borisoff logging three of his game-high five in the opening seven minutes.

Geller, one of La Cañada's lefties, finished with five of his six goals by halftime, as he added two more tallies in the first 2:21 of the second quarter to increase the lead to 10-2. Borisoff and Justin Moh also scored in the second frame to increase the lead to 12-3.

"Being a lefty you see more than other people in the pool technically," said Geller, who also had three steals in the game. "They were dropping and helping on Symeon and I just saw it and thought, 'OK, it's my turn today I guess.' Against San Marino I was just passing as much as I could, today I was just shooting and my shots went in."

Stefan finished with a game-high seven goals for La Cañada, which also got three goals and two steals from Hopkins to round out a balanced attack that had seven different scorers.

Thursday's game also prepared the Spartans for a playoff-type game with how physical the play was. Devon Borisoff said that's due to Temple City's pool, which is just four feet deep on one side.

"It's like rugby in three-foot deep water basically," Devon Borisoff said. "It was a little physical, but nothing more so than a high-level game would be for us, those are much more physical."

The Spartans will have one of those high-level games Saturday, as they host Mira Costa at Pasadena City College at 6 p.m. in a CIF Southern Section Division III rivalry showdown. A victory could secure a No. 1 seeding for CIF playoffs if La Cañada repeats an undefeated league run, as it doesn't play another Division III team — outside of league play — the rest of the year.

"The Mira Costa game is always a huge game for us," Devon Borisoff said. "We've been in the same division and we've been rivals for my entire La Cañada career, so for at least the past 10-15 years they've been a huge rival for us. … There's the rivalry stuff and all the battles we've had over the years, how many times they've beaten us in the playoffs and vice versa, it's always a really fun game. It's one of my favorite rivalries."

andrew.shortall@latimes.com