After a sluggish start, the Helen Cox Cougars did just enough to pull out a thrilling victory Wednesday night.

Daelon Murdock scored 20 points, Brandon Allen and Terrence Joseph chipped in 11 apiece and Helen Cox outlasted the East Jefferson Warriors 59-52 in overtime to advance to the second round of the Newman Invitational Tournament.

Though the Cougars are happy to be moving on to the next round, coach Tyron Mouzon said, his team has some improvements to make.

“We made the game very difficult. I do respect our opponent,” he said, referring to coach Ryan Dicharry and East Jefferson. “Coach’s team always plays really hard. They kept fighting back, so I have to give East Jefferson a lot of credit, but we have to do a better job of finishing games. We have to execute better and learn how to finish games, and I don’t think we did a good job of that today.”

East Jeff was in the game from start to finish but fell short, leading Dicharry and the Warriors to look at a little self-improvement of their own.

“(In a game like this), we need to make one more play,” he said. “We need one more rebound, one more shot at the end — but I thought we battled throughout. They made a couple of nice runs on us. They made a run late and we battled right back and we hung with it, and we had a chance to win in regulation. We just didn’t get it done.”

The Warriors got off to a great start, leading 9-0 midway through the first quarter. The Cougars came clawing right back, though, going on a 12-0 run of their own, punctuated by Murdock’s buzzer-beating 3-pointer at the end of the period.

Leroy Friloux led the way for the Warriors, who kept it close in the second quarter and trailed Helen Cox 24-19 at halftime. Friloux finished with 15 points.

The Cougars were ahead by four points, 38-34, going into the fourth quarter, which turned out to be a wild ride.

Helen Cox went on a scoring flurry, building up a 44-34 lead. The Warriors refused to quit, however, and went on a 12-0 run of their own to take a 46-44 lead before Allen knocked in a shot to tie it with 2:26 remaining.

Keefe Cole’s layup gave the Warriors the lead once more with 1:17 to go, but Derrick Castine’s putback tied it up once more with 55 seconds remaining. The Warriors got one more chance but couldn’t get a shot off before regulation ended, sending the teams to overtime.

The Cougars went on a 7-0 run to start the extra period, which was simply too much for the Warriors to overcome.