BHS v Glacier Boys Basketball (copy)

Bozeman senior Carter Ash drives against a Kalispell Glacier opponent Dec. 20 at Bozeman High.

Bozeman often was in control, but head coach Wes Holmquist was never comfortable.

He remembered the Hawks’ struggles at Billings Skyview in recent years. He also knew how athletic and talented the opponent was. Even with a late lead, Holmquist was never sure Bozeman would win until the very end.

But the Hawks’ experience in close games proved to be helpful. They held on for a 57-50 road win over Skyview on Saturday in Bozeman’s Eastern AA opener.

“Our guys were doing the right things,” Holmquist said. “but we’ve got to do things a little bit better.”

While the Falcons led by four in the third quarter, Holmquist said, the Hawks responded with 10 unanswered points.

Bozeman, coming off a Class AA championship last season and multiple overtime games this season, showed poise. The Hawks (4-2, 1-0 Eastern AA) committed just 11 turnovers, made Skyview shoot 10 for 26 in the second half and made just enough free throws for a victory.

Holmquist, proud of his team’s balance, listed off several key contributors.

Carter Ash led the Hawks with 15 points, eight rebounds and five assists. Jackson Coles made 3 of 4 3-pointers for 14 points and added seven rebounds. Brett Clark tied a team high with eight rebounds to go with five points. Hudson Willett recorded eight points and a team-high three steals. Padraig Lang scored eight points off the bench.

Holmquist emphasized the importance Bozeman’s competitive edge on the boards.

“That was a big part of it, not giving them second-chance opportunities,” Holmquist said. “We really wanted to protect the paint, and I thought we did a good job of that overall. … We tried to make them uncomfortable on defense.”

As a team, Bozeman made 16 of 39 shots (41%), slightly better than Skyview’s 18 of 46 (39%). The Hawks also made half of their 16 3-pointers and steadily found offense on fast breaks, never letting Skyview score more than them in any quarter. While both teams were close statistically, Bozeman’s bench outscored Skyview’s 13-4, another crucial boost.

Holmquist believes effective passes negated the Falcons’ length and speed.

“It’s huge for us because you can’t just key on one guy. We can move the ball well,” he said. “We did a good job of spreading them out and playing inside-out. Overall, we did a really good job.”

Holmquist noted the Hawks’s confidence in each other is rising. That’s what their head coach wants. He believes each of his players is capable of making key plays and trusts they will only build from here.

“We want to get a little bit better every time we’re out to play,” Holmquist said. “I think we’ll continue to get better.”

Colton Pool can be reached at cpool@dailychronicle.com or 406-582-2690.

Follow him on Twitter @CPoolReporter.