MILL CREEK — Nine days after crashing to the floor and spraining his wrist, Colby Kyle returned from injury in impressive fashion.
Kyle scored 24 points and Spencer Davidson added 21 as the Monroe boys basketball team overcame Jackson guard Christian Liddell’s 35-point outburst Friday night, seizing sole possession of second place in the Wesco 4A standings with a 79-67 road win over the Timberwolves.
“I just thought that he had a different look in his eyes tonight,” first-year Monroe coach Ben Williams said of Kyle, the Bearcats’ 6-foot-7 standout senior forward. “He didn’t want to let his team down. He’d been tired of sitting on the bench with the injury. He just didn’t want to lose tonight.”
Playing with a taped left wrist, the right-handed Kyle showcased his Division I talent with an efficient display of offensive versatility. The Princeton University commit showed no ill effects from the injury, mixing in several mid-range jumpers with an array of polished post moves and strong finishes at the rim.
It was the fifth time this season that the Ivy League-bound star scored at least 24 points.
“He dove on the floor early in the game, and I think that kind of set the tone to his teammates about how this game was going to go,” Williams said.
Kyle was playing for the first time since injuring his left wrist on a hard fall in the second quarter of a Jan. 10 loss to Glacier Peak.
After leaping for a dunk attempt in that game and losing control while grabbing the rim, Kyle came crashing to the floor and landed hard on his wrist. He exited the contest and missed Monroe’s next two games before returning to action Friday.
Williams said he feared the worst when Kyle first suffered the injury, but was relieved when X-rays the following day were negative.
“When he got hurt against Glacier Peak, it was immediately swelling up, so I thought the worst-case scenario,” Williams said. “And then the next day when he got his X-rays, I was obviously very pleased.
“He’s worked so hard for this opportunity to be a senior leader on this team — to have a chance to make a run in the playoffs and finish the year strong. So I was just really happy for him.”
With Kyle sidelined the previous two games, Davidson rose to the occasion and led the Bearcats (12-3 overall, 7-2 Wesco 4A) to victories over Cascade and Mariner.
Davidson, a 6-foot-5 senior forward, continued his run of strong performances Friday night, scoring at least 17 points for the fourth consecutive game. He was averaging 9.1 points per contest prior to Kyle’s injury.
“When Colby got injured, (Spencer) stepped up big-time and made sure that we didn’t lose without Colby,” Williams said. “I think we’ve benefited by the fact that Colby missed some time. Some guys stepped up, and now we’re kind of meshing together.”
Monroe senior guard Luis Rubalcaba scored all 13 of his points in the second half, hitting three pivotal 3-pointers to help the Bearcats sweep the season series between the two teams.
Liddell, a junior, scored 19 of his season-high 35 points in the first half and finished with six 3-pointers.
Monroe scored the game’s first seven points and raced to an early 13-3 advantage, leading by as many as 13 points in the first quarter.
Kyle heated up with nine points in the second quarter — including an emphatic two-handed slam — to give the Bearcats a 35-29 halftime lead.
Liddell hit a pair of technical-foul free throws to tie the game at 44 midway through the third quarter. But Rubalcaba sank a 3-pointer shortly after, sparking a 7-0 run that gave Monroe a 51-44 lead.
Then after Jackson trimmed the margin to 53-52 early in the fourth, Kyle answered with two quick baskets and Davidson added another, pushing the Bearcats’ lead to 59-52.
The Timberwolves (10-5, 6-3) cut the deficit to three points several times in the final five minutes, but Rubalcaba sank a pair of 3-pointers down the stretch as Monroe pulled away.
The Bearcats trail first-place Glacier Peak by two games and hold a one-game lead over Jackson. Monroe owns the head-to-head tiebreaker over the Timberwolves by virtue of sweeping the season series.