There is a sign above the door to the boys' locker room at Grant High.
"If you really attempted to achieve the maximum," the sign usually says, "you are a winner."
It was fitting that on Friday night, the sign was torn in half. The Lancers didn't play anywhere near their potential yet still managed to defeat Poly, 57-55, in an East Valley League game at Grant.
The Lancers, who defeated Poly for the third time this season, have won 11 consecutive games.
"That's what happens every game," Grant guard Adi Saker said. "We play good enough to win. We played bad tonight, but we'll take it."
Poly almost took it instead. The Parrots trailed, 52-44, with 3:04 remaining but outscored Grant, 9-2, to close to within one point with 1:14 left.
"We haven't blown anyone out in league," Grant guard Danny Enowitz said. "We're still finding ways to win, no matter how bad we play.
"We lost our poise," Enowitz added. "We panicked. Every time we got a 10-point lead, we blew it."
When it counted most, however, the Lancers held on. Grant moved ahead, 55-53, on a Sean Watkins free throw. Poly tied the score on a baseline jumper by John Bruner with 43 seconds remaining before Enowitz was fouled.
Enowitz, who led all scorers with 21 points and 16 rebounds, made both free throws. Poly's O.G. Magno missed on a driving layup and a scramble on the floor for the loose ball ensued. Watkins, who finished with 19 points, ended up with the ball and was fouled, but missed both free throws with 15 seconds left. Poly had the ball near the half-court line with three seconds remaining, but Saker stole the ball to preserve the victory.
"We have the top winning percentage in the 3-A and the second best winning percentage in the City," Grant Coach Howard Levine said. "But we certainly didn't play like that in the last four minutes of the game."
It wasn't much better in the first four minutes or, for that matter, the entire first half. Grant scored nine points to Poly's four in the first quarter. Grant missed 22 of 30 first-half shots and Poly misfired on 21 of 28.
"We were lucky," Levine said. "But we're not going to give it back."
Nick Lymberopoulos led Poly with 16 points and Magno came off the bench to add 10 points.
Grant improved to 16-2 overall, 8-0 in league play and can clinch the league title with a win at North Hollywood on Tuesday. Poly dropped to 10-8, 3-5 in league.