GRAND FORKS, ND (March 16, 2017) — When the North Dakota Fighting Hawks step onto the court tonight against the Arizona Wildcats in what will be their first-ever NCAA tournament appearance, they’ll be led by three members of Hope Covenant Church—head coach Brian Jones, assistant coach Steve Grabowski, and Craig Heatherly, director of basketball operations.
North Dakota, ranked number 15 in the West Region will take on second-seed Arizona at 6:50 p.m. PST in Salt Lake City.
North Dakota went 22-9 this season, including a 14-4 record in the Big Sky Conference. Arizona, a perennial participant in the tournament, achieved a 33-4 overall mark and 16-2 Pac-12 record.
The Fighting Hawks made it to the tournament after winning their conference title with a late-game surge against Weber State. Jones told the Associated Press, “That’s been this team. You look at these kids, they have no quit, no die. You can’t coach that. That’s how these kids are wired.”
With only one player on the squad over 6-foot-8, Jones said that if the Fighting Hawks are to pull off a huge upset, they will have to play their fast-paced game to perfection. He said he told his players, “You don’t get to the big stage and all of a sudden forget about what you’ve done through 31 games. We want to be able to get out and play fast, because that’s what we’ve done.”